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Using Correlative Conjunctions, or Why I’m Secretly a Bad Canadian

Using Correlative Conjunctions

Using Correlative ConjunctionsI’m secretly a very bad Canadian. It’s true that I love poutine and bacon (together or separately) and that I say sorry when someone else bumps into me. The occasional eh has been known to slip from my lips, and I once got an X-ray for free. But there’s one thing that makes me a very, very bad Canadian:

I hate winter.

I’m already planning my future as a retired snowbird. But with the prospect of retirement so far away, I have to find something else to look forward to. I need something to help me get through the frigid, skin-freezing torment that is Canadian winter to the wet, cool spring on the other side. That’s where spring television comes in.

Throughout the winter, knowing that my favorite shows will be returning in a matter of months is one of the only things that gets me through. It’s all I’ve been thinking about all day, which has made it rather challenging for me to write this post on correlative conjunctions. Luckily, I finally realized that I don’t need to choose between thinking about spring television and teaching you about correlative conjunctions—I can do both!

With that being said, let’s dive right in to the worlds of absurd comedy, fantasy, detective work, low-security female prison life, and, of course, grammar.

What Are Correlative Conjunctions?

As you know, a conjunction is a connector between different parts of a sentence, whether between two clauses, phrases, or words. Correlative conjunctions are conjunctions that work in pairs to show a relationship between two elements of equal importance. In other words, correlative conjunctions combine two relative parts of speech.

I think I’ll watch either House of Cards or Game of Thrones.

Just as there aren’t very many people as attractive as Kit Harrington, there aren’t very many correlative conjunction pairs to work with. The main correlative conjunctions in English are:







No Sooner/Than


As Many/As



Not Only/But Also

Correlative Conjunctions at Work

Most correlative conjunctions, when shown in context, are fairly straightforward. They make comparisons between two things, whether to say that they are equal, that they are different, or that one is superior to the other. Here are some examples to help you better understand how some of the different correlative conjunctions can be put to use.

Not only do I think Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt is funny, but I also think Ellie Kemper is a lovable leading lady.

Neither Stannis nor Daenerys will ever take the Iron Throne.

Both Sherlock and Elementary feature a modern-day Sherlock Holmes, though one is clearly superior to the other.

I can never decide whether I prefer Orange Is the New Black or Girls.

I do not usually enjoy politics, but House of Cards is a fantastic show.

Correlative Conjunctions and Commas

My Ideal Winter As you can see, correlative conjunctions aren’t too difficult to understand. Even if you didn’t know what they were called before now, you’ve certainly been using them in your writing for a long time. That brings me to my next point—many people incorrectly use commas with correlative conjunctions, like this:

You either love Kimmy Schmidt’s Titus Andromedon, or you hate him.

I would rather be best friends with Arya, than with Sansa.

I would no sooner choose Elementary over Sherlock, than I would eat my own hair.

All of the commas in the above examples are incorrect. As a general rule, there should not be a comma between a pair of correlative conjunctions. There are, of course, some exceptions. The most notable exception would be when a parenthetical clause interrupts the conjunction pair, as in this example:

It seems that neither Piper, one of the lead characters of Orange Is the New Black, nor Alex, her sometimes girlfriend, can stay out of trouble for long.

In the above example, the information provided about the characters makes up two separate nonrestrictive clauses. These clauses require the use of commas, and as such, it’s okay to interrupt the correlative conjunction pair (neither/nor) with these commas. Here’s one more example:

Both Kevin Spacey, who plays Frank Underwood, and Robin Wright, who plays Claire Underwood, have won Golden Globe awards for their performances in House of Cards.


The bad news: if you live near one of the poles, you’ll probably just have to deal with numb fingers and nose icicles.

The good news: in most places, winter doesn’t last forever. Plus, you’ve now learned all there is to know about correlative conjunctions, so you can explain to people why you would rather have the ending of Game of Thrones ruined for you than have to shovel your driveway again.

The best news: there’s still lots to learn about the parts of speech, and you’ll be able to learn it all with Inklyo’s newest ebook, The Complete Guide to the Parts of Speech, available now on Amazon. In between chapters, snuggle up and binge-watch Netflix. You can do it all!

Image sources: tpsdave/, alenkasm/

Parts of Speech