Correlative Conjunctions

Correlative conjunctions are pairs of words or phrases that balance out each other and contribute to creating a harmonious sentence structure. They function by relating expressions of similar grammatical type. In an English grammar context, sentences using correlative conjunctions are often paralleled; this means that whatever happens on one side of the conjunction also happens on the other side.

Introduction to Correlative Conjunctions

Correlative conjunctions are a type of conjunction that function in pairs, essentially to correlate or join phrases or words that are equally important within a sentence. They enhance sentence structure and balance, which ultimately enhances the overall coherence and fluidity of your writing.

The primary objective of correlative conjunctions is to ensure the joined sentences or phrases maintain a similar structure, which makes it easier for the reader to follow and understand. If removed, the sentence still remains grammatically correct, but the relationship between the two independent clauses might not be clear.

Recognizing Correlative Conjunctions and their use

Here are some common correlative conjunctions. They always come in pairs, and you need to use both of them in different places in the sentence:

  • Either … or
  • Neither … nor
  • Not only … but also
  • Both … and
  • Whether … or
  • Just as … so

Example 1:

Example sentence: "Either Jack will be coming to the party, or he will be staying at home."

In the above sentence, the correlative conjunctions 'Either' and 'or' are used to present two possible scenarios of equal consideration.

Example 2:

Example sentence: "She does not only play basketball, but she also coaches the team."

In this sentence, the correlative conjunctions 'Not only' and 'but also' are used to reinforce the dual roles of a single individual, enhancing the overall structure of the sentence.

Rules to Remember when using Correlative Conjunctions

Even though correlative conjunctions may appear quite straightforward, using them incorrectly can confuse readers. Here are some important rules to remember during application:

Rule 1: Parallelism

When you use correlative conjunctions in a sentence, the items immediately following the conjunctions must belong to the same part in speech. They should be grammatically parallel.


Incorrect: "Not only she is my friend but also my teacher."
Correct: "She is not only my friend but also my teacher."

Rule 2: Singular and Plural Subjects

If the subjects connected by the correlative conjunctions are singular, a singular verb should be used. Conversely, if they're plural, a plural verb should be used.


Correct: "Either Mary or John is going to pick you up."
Incorrect: "Either the boys or Jane are taking the bus to school."

  • The correct version should be: "Either the boys or Jane is taking the bus to school."
  • Rule 3: Incorrect Pairings

    Always ensure to use the correct pair of correlative conjunctions. Incorrect pairing can alter the meaning of the sentence or make it grammatically incorrect.


    Incorrect: "Either jam or I want butter."
    Correct: "I want either jam or butter."


    Correlative conjunctions are an important part of English grammar. They ensure that sentences are balanced and maintain a fluid structure, fostering a clearer understanding for readers. Understanding the rules associated with their use can greatly improve your writing skills.

    Remember, the common correlative conjunctions include: Either… or, Neither… nor, Not only… but, Both… and, Whether… or, Just as… so. It's important to use them in pairs and to keep the sentences or phrases they are joining parallel to enhance the sentence structure and coherence.

    With consistent practice and application of these rules, you'll soon master the art of using correlative conjunctions effectively in your writing.

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