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correlative conjunctions

The word conjunction comes from a Latin root meaning “join.” In grammar, a conjunction is a joining word.

A correlative conjunction is a two-part conjunction: it consists of two words or phrases that are used to join sentence elements of equal value. Some of the most common are shown below:

  • both…and: Both Ryan and Meg like skiing Whistler.
  • either…or: Luis will live either in Spain or in Portugal.
  • neither…nor: Neither you nor I have to work tomorrow.
  • not only…but also: Maria not only sings but also plays guitar.

Parallel structure with correlative conjunctions

Your writing will be more effective if you use parallel (similar) structures after both parts of the correlative conjunction.

Here is an example of a poorly structured sentence:

  • Incorrect: Lise either went to the weight room or the sauna.

As you can see, the above sentence is not parallel. Because either is followed by an entire predicate* (went to the weight room) and or is followed only by a noun phrase (the sauna), the two halves of the structure are not balanced.

To make the structure parallel, we could rewrite the sentence in any of the following ways:

  • Lise went either to the weight room or to the sauna. [2 prepositional phrases]
  • Lise went to either the weight room or the sauna. [2 noun phrases]
  • Lise either went to the weight room or had a sauna. [2 predicates*]

* Back to the textNote: The predicate is the verb and any words that go with the verb (objects or modifiers).