What is a Coordinating Conjunction

Grockit is an online prep and collaborative learning tool that allows students to practice tests in the three ways they naturally study – alone, with peers, and with experts. This guest blog was written by Jordan Schonig, a writer for Grockit.
Yes, I’m sure all of you know what a conjunction is; we’ve all heard the famous song in “School House Rock.” My goal is not to tell you the difference between “and,” “but,” and “or.” My goal is to explain how conjunctions are used to link phrases and clauses.
The SAT and ACT will likely test you on two kinds of conjunctions: coordinating conjunctions and subordinating conjunctions. Each type has its own set of rules that you must follow.
Coordinating Conjunctions
Examples: For, And, Nor, But, Or, Yet, So
Coordinating conjunctions are those conjunctions that connect words, phrases, and, most importantly, independent clauses. To remember the coordinating conjunctions, use the mnemonic device FANBOYS: For, And, Nor, But, Or, Yet, So.
We already know that coordinating conjunctions can be used to link words. Like as in “I need to buy milk and cookies” and in phrases like, “John needs to run home and do his homework.”
The most important function of the coordinating conjunction, however, is its ability to connect two independent clauses with a comma. An independent clause is a complete idea, containing a subject and verb that can stand alone as a complete sentence.
Let’s see some examples of the coordinating conjunction in action:

  1. I want to watch the game, but I have to work that day.
  2. I can watch the game, or I can go to work.
  3. I decided to skip work, so I’ll be able to watch the game.

Wrong: I decided to skip work, therefore I’ll be able to watch the game.
Notice that the comma and the conjunction separate independent clauses. “I want to watch the game” and “I have to work that day” can stand as complete sentences, so they are independent clauses. The important rule to know is that, if one side of the conjunction is not an independent clause, I don’t need a comma.
Look at this example to see when a comma is not needed:
“I can either watch the game or go to work.”
Notice that I changed sentence 2 so that “I can go to work,” an independent clause, is now “go to work,” a simple phrase. As a result, I removed the comma since the conjunction no longer divides two independent clauses.
Stay tuned for a lesson on What is a Subordinating Conjunction?