‘so’ and ‘so that’: coordinating or subordinating conjunction?

  • Conjunctions are words used as joiners.
  • Different kinds of conjunctions join different kinds of grammatical structures.
  • The following are the kinds of conjunctions:
  • for, and, nor, but, or, yet, so
  • Coordinating conjunctions join equals to one another:
  •             words to words,          phrases to phrases,          clauses to clauses.

‘So’ and ‘So That’: Coordinating or Subordinating Conjunction?

Coordinating conjunctions usually form looser connections than other conjunctions do.

‘So’ and ‘So That’: Coordinating or Subordinating Conjunction?

Coordinating conjunctions go in between items joined, not at the beginning or end.

‘So’ and ‘So That’: Coordinating or Subordinating Conjunction?

Punctuation with coordinating conjunctions:

When a coordinating conjunction joins two words, phrases, or subordinate clauses, no comma should be placed before the conjunction.

‘So’ and ‘So That’: Coordinating or Subordinating Conjunction?

A coordinating conjunction joining three or more words, phrases, or subordinate clauses creates a series and requires commas between the elements.

‘So’ and ‘So That’: Coordinating or Subordinating Conjunction?

  1. A coordinating conjunction joining two independent clauses creates a compound sentence and requires a comma before the coordinating conjunction
  2.            ‘So’ and ‘So That’: Coordinating or Subordinating Conjunction?
either. . .or both. . . and
neither. . . nor not only. . .  but also

These pairs of conjunctions require equal (parallel) structures after each one.

‘So’ and ‘So That’: Coordinating or Subordinating Conjunction?

  • These conjunctions join independent clauses together.
  • The following are frequently used conjunctive adverbs:
after all in addition next
also incidentally nonetheless
as a result indeed on the contrary
besides in fact on the other hand
consequently in other words otherwise
finally instead still
for example

List of Conjunctions

This list of conjunctions will knock your socks off. 🙂 If you want to get super smart, you should see the conjunctions page.

Quick Refresher

Conjunctions are words that join two or more words, phrases, or clauses.

List of Coordinating Conjunctions 

Coordinating conjunctions join sentence elements that are the same. They can join words, phrases, and clauses.

  •  cookies and milk (joining words)
  • into the house and out the door (joining phrases)
  • He came and she left. (joining clauses)
  • There are only seven of these, and they're easy to memorize if you use the mnemonic device FANBOYS.

For, And, Nor, But, Or, Yet, So

This sentence diagram shows us that coordinating conjunctions connect two or more sentence elements.

Check it out! The coordinating conjunction goes on a dotted, vertical line between the things that it connects.

That diagram shows a coordinating conjunction joining two independent clauses. Sentence diagramming rules! You can lean to diagram coordinating conjunctions here.

‘So’ and ‘So That’: Coordinating or Subordinating Conjunction?

List of Subordinating Conjunctions

  1. Subordinating conjunctions are conjunctions that join dependent clauses to independent clauses.
  2.   I will eat broccoli after I eat this cookie.

  3. (I will eat broccoli = independent clause, after I eat this cookie = dependent adverb clause)

There are many subordinating conjunctions, so keep in mind that this list doesn't include all of them! A WHITE BUS is a way to help you memorize some subordinating conjunctions.

  • A after, although, as, as if, as long as, as much as, as soon as, as though 
  • B because, before, by the time 
  • E even if, even though 
  • I if, in order that, in case 
  • L lest 
  • O once, only if 
  • P provided that 
  • S since, so that 
  • T than, that, though, till 
  • U unless, until 
  • W when, whenever, where, wherever, while 
  1. You can see that these kinds of conjunctions connect dependent clauses (also called subordinate clauses) to independent clauses just by looking at the sentence diagram!
  2. The subordinating conjunction goes on a dotted line between the two clauses.
  3. Learn more about diagramming subordinating conjunctions.
‘So’ and ‘So That’: Coordinating or Subordinating Conjunction?

List of Conjunctions – Correlative Conjunctions

These kinds of conjunctions do the same thing that coordinating conjunctions do except that they are always used in pairs.

This cookie contains neither chocolate nor nuts.

 both… and 

 either… or 

 neither… nor 

 not only… but also 

 whether… or 

Here's a sentence diagram of the correlative conjunction both … and.Did you notice that it's diagrammed in the same way that we diagrammed our coordinating conjunction above? I thought you would. You're so smart. ‘So’ and ‘So That’: Coordinating or Subordinating Conjunction?

Conjunction Junction

What page about conjunctions would be complete without a link to Schoolhouse Rock's super catchy Conjunction Junction? (Did you watch this when you were a kid?)

Here are a few other lessons you might enjoy.

‘So’ and ‘So That’: Coordinating or Subordinating Conjunction?

If you don't want to teach or learn grammar by yourself, click here to see how I can help you.

Conjunctions or connectors in English

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  3.    Conjunctions

Key points : Connectors – also called conjunctive words – are words that link two similar elements in a sentence.

  • The four categories of connector , which are explained below, are 
  • A small number of conjunctions and conjunctive adverbs can link individual words or phrases; but the majority can only link two clauses.
  • A coordinated clause or phrase must follow the clause or phrase to which it is connected.
  • A subordinate clause normally follows the main clause, but in some cases may preceed it. See below.
  • In most cases the difference between subordination and coordination is clear, but in some cases linguists disagree.

New ! Recommended for teachers and students‘So’ and ‘So That’: Coordinating or Subordinating Conjunction? Coordinating conjunctions are used to link two clauses or phrases of equal value or equal status. There are only a small number of coordinating conjunctions in English: most sources repeat what others say, and list the following seven, using the convenient acronym FANBOYS.

  • for, and, nor, but,or, yet and so.  

This is a popular but misleading mnemonic. So forget fanboys, forget for and so, and go for the acronym BANYO.

  • For can be forgotten, as it is hardly ever used as a coordinating conjunction in modern English. It has been replaced by because or as…. which are clearly subordinators.  
  • As for So, grammar books and websites provide contradictory and often ambiguous information. So let's clarify the situation. When so implies purpose it is clearly a subordinating conjunction. The subordinate clause can come before or after the main clause.OK  I bought a new camera so I could take better pictures. OK  So I could take better pictures, I bought a new camera. 
  • When so implies consequence linguists disagree as to whether it is a coordinator a subordinator . But either way, the so clause must follow the main clause. Probably the best way to define so implying consequence is as a conjunctive adverb.  For clarification see English grammar – so OK  I bought a new camera so I took better pictures. NOT OK  So I took better pictures, I bought a new camera. 

  • Many online dictionaries and printed grammar books do not distinguish coherently between the usage of so for purpose and so for consequence, or are very ambiguous on this point. 
  • And and or can link individual words or clauses; yet, and but normally only link clauses, but sometimes link two words. Nor cannot link words when it is a coordinating conjunction it can only do so in partnership with neither, as a correlative conjunction.

USAGE: Coordinating connectors give equal value to the two elements that they coordinate. They must be placed between the two elements that they coordinate.  Examples:

I want three beers and a glass of lemonade He went to bed and went to sleep. You can have the chocolate mousse or the lemon tart They'll win, or they'll lose.

This present is not for Peter, but Paul I bought a new dress that was not red but pink. We're going to Paris, but not to Rome. We're going to Paris, but we're also going to Rome. He was very tired yet very happy.

The director was rather young, yet the company was successful.

Can you start a sentence with a conjunction?

A lot of grammar books claim that it is wrong to start a sentence with a conjunction. This is just wrong ! Most of the great writers in the English language have from time to time used sentences starting with conjunctions.

In the “King James” version of the Bible, which was the standard work of reference for style in the English language for three hundred years, two of the first three sentences in the first chapter of the book of Genesis start with And….

 These initial “ands” remain present in the main modern 20th or 21st century versions of the Bible, including the Contemporary English Version (CEV) and the American Standard Version (ASV) . So yes, you can start a sentence with a conjunction.

Subordinating conjunctions are used to link two clauses within a single sentence, when one clause is subordinate to the other. In other words, the subordinate clause clarifies, expands or explains the meaning of the main clause.

   Some types of subordinate clause are introduced by subordinating conjunctions, others (such as relative clauses) are not. Common subordinating conjunctions include

  • as , because and since  (cause)
  • so and so that  (purpose)
  • although and though  (contrastive)
  • after, before, until, while, etc.  (temporal)
  • if, unless, as long as, provided, whenever, whatever (conditional, indirect question)
  • that (reported speech, indirect statement, consequential)

USAGE:   Subordinating conjunctions must come at the start of the subordinate clause. There are two sorts of subordinate clauses.

  • Most subordinate clauses can come either before or after

What Are Subordinating Conjunctions?

‘So’ and ‘So That’: Coordinating or Subordinating Conjunction?

What are Subordinate Conjunctions?

Subordinating conjunctions join independent clauses with a dependent or subordinate clause. A clause that is dependent (subordinate) is a clause that contains two qualities.

The first quality is that is does not complete a thought on it’s own; meaning it can’t act as a sentence on its own. The second quality is that it depends on an independent clause, one that can act as a sentence on it’s own.

The word because is a great way to quickly help you to understand subordinate conjunctions. The word because exists to show you the cause and effect of something, which is essentially what a subordinate conjunction does.

List of Subordinate Conjunctions

Whereas coordinating conjunctions and correlative conjunctions link two equal elements, subordinate conjunctions are the link between two unequal elements. This usually occurs when you link a main or independent clause with a subordinate or dependent clause. This combination creates a complex sentence that requires the use of a subordinating conjunction.

There are many subordinate conjunctions to keep track of, but here is a list of those most commonly used.

After Once Until
Although Provided that When
As Rather than Whenever
Because Since Where
Before So that Whereas
Even if Than Wherever
Even though That Whether
If Though While
In order to Unless Why

Although many people consider them to be subordinate conjunctions, words such as however, accordingly, still, otherwise and so forth are referred to as conjunctive adverbs, which are slightly different in function from subordinate conjunctions, and they’re punctuated differently as well.

How to Use and Punctuate Subordinating Conjunctions

There are two main functions of subordinating conjunctions: to transition between two ideas and to reduce importance of one clause over another. On the matter of importance, the main clause is the one that is given importance over the subordinate clause.

Transition: I often sit down to write articles after my children eat breakfast.Reducing Importance: Although it is a beautiful day outside, I plan on working inside at my computer.

There are four main ways to construct sentences using subordinating conjunctions:

1. Main clause and subordinate clause. There is no comma required with this simple structure.

– Amber rubbed her eyes as she opened a new training article.– I prefer to write while my children are at school.

2. Subordinate clause and main clause. Because the sentence is beginning with a dependent clause, a comma should usually come at the end of the subordinate clause before starting the main clause.

While Drew sets up the trading show booth, Jon explains BKA services to some interested guests.– Although Katie assured me it was okay, I felt terrible about asking for an extension.

3. Main clause and essential relative clause. This involves the use of a relative pronoun such as where, who, that or which. If the relative pronoun is used to clarify a general noun, it is essential and does not require a comma before it. If the essential relative clause interrupts a main sentence, do not put commas around it.


Some words are satisfied spending an evening at home, alone, eating ice-cream right out of the box, watching Seinfeld re-runs on TV, or reading a good book.

Others aren't happy unless they're out on the town, mixing it up with other words; they're joiners and they just can't help themselves.

A conjunction is a joiner, a word that connects (conjoins) parts of a sentence.

Coordinating Conjunctions

The simple, little conjunctions are called coordinating conjunctions (you can click on the words to see specific descriptions of each one):

Coordinating Conjunctions
and but or yet for nor so

(It may help you remember these conjunctions by recalling that they all have fewer than four letters. Also, remember the acronym FANBOYS: For-And-Nor-But-Or-Yet-So. Be careful of the words then and now; neither is a coordinating conjunction, so what we say about coordinating conjunctions' roles in a sentence and punctuation does not apply to those two words.)

‘So’ and ‘So That’: Coordinating or Subordinating Conjunction?Click on “Conjunction Junction” to read and hear Bob Dorough's “Conjunction Junction” (from Scholastic Rock, 1973). Schoolhouse Rock® and its characters and other elements are trademarks and service marks of American Broadcasting Companies, Inc. Used with permission.

When a coordinating conjunction connects two independent clauses, it is often (but not always) accompanied by a comma:

  • Ulysses wants to play for UConn, but he has had trouble meeting the academic requirements.

When the two independent clauses connected by a coordinating conjunction are nicely balanced or brief, many writers will omit the comma:

  • Ulysses has a great jump shot but he isn't quick on his feet.

The comma is always correct when used to separate two independent clauses connected by a coordinating conjunction. See Punctuation Between Two Independent Clauses for further help.

A comma is also correct when and is used to attach the last item of a serial list, although many writers (especially in newspapers) will omit that final comma:

  • Ulysses spent his summer studying basic math, writing, and reading comprehension.

When a coordinating conjunction is used to connect all the elements in a series, a comma is not used:

  • Presbyterians and Methodists and Baptists are the prevalent Protestant congregations in Oklahoma.

A comma is also used with but when expressing a contrast:

  • This is a useful rule, but difficult to remember.

In most of their other roles as joiners (other than joining independent clauses, that is), coordinating conjunctions can join two sentence elements without the help of a comma.

  • Hemingway and Fitzgerald are among the American expatriates of the between-the-wars era.
  • Hemingway was renowned for his clear style and his insights into American notions of male identity.
  • It is hard to say whether Hemingway or Fitzgerald is the more interesting cultural icon of his day.
  • Although Hemingway is sometimes disparaged for his unpleasant portrayal of women and for his glorification of machismo, we nonetheless find some sympathetic, even heroic, female figures in his novels and short stories.
A frequently asked question about conjunctions is whether and or but can be used at the beginning of a sentence. This is what R.W. Burchfield has to say about this use of and: There is a persistent belief that it is improper to begin a sentence with And, but this prohibition has been cheerfully ignored by standard authors from Anglo-Saxon times onwards. An initial And is a useful aid to writers as the narrative continues. from The New Fowler's Modern English Usage edited by R.W. Burchfield. Clarendon Press: Oxford, England. 1996.Used with the permission of Oxford University Press. The same is true with the conjunction but. A sentence beginning with and or but will tend to draw attention to itself and its transitional function. Writers should examine such sentences with two questions in mind: (1) would the sentence and paragraph function just as well without the initial conjunction? (2) should the sentence in question be connected to the previous sentence? If the initial conjunction still seems appropriate, use it.

Among the coordinating conjunctions, the most common, of course, are and, but, and or. It might be helpful to explore the uses of these three little words. The examples below by no means exhaust the possible meanings of these conjunctions.


  1. To suggest that one idea is chronologically sequential to another: “Tashonda sent in her applications and waited by the phone for a response.”
  2. To suggest that one idea is the result of another: “Willie heard the weather report and promptly boarded up his house.”
  3. To suggest that one idea is in contrast to another (frequently replaced by but in this usage): “Juanita is brilliant and Shalimar has a pleasant personality.
  4. To suggest an element of surprise (sometimes replaced by yet in this usage): “Hartford is a rich city and suffers from many symptoms of urban blight.”
  5. To suggest that one clause is dependent upon another, conditionally (usually the first clause is an imperative): “Use your credit cards frequently and you'll soon find yourself deep in debt.”
  6. To suggest a kind of “comment” on the first clause: “Charlie became addicted to gambling — and that surprised no one who knew him.”


  1. To suggest a contrast that is unexpected in light of the first clause: “Joey lost a fortune in the stock market, but he still seems able to live quite comfortably.”
  2. To suggest in an affirmative sense what the first part of the sentence implied in a negative way (sometimes replaced by on the contrary): “The club never invested foolishly, but used the services of a sage investment counselor.”
  3. To connect two ideas with the meaning of “with the exception of” (and then the second word takes over as subject): “Everybody but Goldenbreath is trying out for the team.”


  1. To suggest that only one possibility can be realized, excluding one or the other: “You can study hard for this exam or you can fail.”
  2. To suggest the inclusive combination of alternatives: “We can broil chicken on the grill tonight, or we can just eat leftovers.
  3. To suggest a refinement of the first clause: “Smith College is the premier all-women's college in the country, or so it seems to most Smith College alumnae.”
  4. To suggest a restatement or “correction” of the first part of the sentence: “There are no rattlesnakes in this canyon, or so our guide tells us.”
  5. To suggest a negative condition: “The New Hampshire state motto is the rather grim “Live free or die.”
  6. To suggest a negative alternative without the use of an imperative (see use of and above): “They must approve his political style or they wouldn't keep electing him mayor.”

The Others . . .

The conjunction NOR is not extinct, but it is not used nearly as often as the other conjunctions, so it might feel a bit odd when nor does come up in conversation or writing. Its most common use is as the little brother in the correlative pair, neither-nor (see below):

  • He is neither sane nor brilliant.
  • That is neither what I said nor what I meant.

>It can be used with other negative expressions:

  • That is not what I meant to say, nor should you interpret my statement as an admission of guilt.

It is possible to use nor without a preceding negative element, but it is unusual and, to an extent, rather stuffy:

  • George's handshake is as good as any written contract, nor has he ever proven untrustworthy.

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