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Correlative conjunctions are pairs of words which express relationships between equivalent ideas. Each pair expresses a particular type of relationship. Correlative conjunctions are not interchangeable. You cannot “mix and match” part of one correlative conjunction with a part of another. In this lesson, we’re going to cover four of the most commonly-used correlative conjunctions in modern English.


Both … and

Both … and emphasizes that all of the ideas presented in a sentence are possible or true:


The English Island offers both individual and small group classes.

Both Marie and Janet are going to the concert.


Not only … but also

Not only … but also is used to add one idea to another idea of equal importance. The meaning is essentially “this idea + this other idea”:


Not only is Jane a skilled cook, but she is also a talented musician.

He not only serves as a firefighter but also teaches fire safety classes.


Either … or

Either … or is used to express two mutually exclusive ideas. Only one of the two ideas presented can be true:


I can teach the ESL class at either the branch office or the English Island campus.

We can have either fish or chicken for dinner.


Neither … nor

Neither … nor expresses the idea that none of the ideas presented are possible or true:


Neither John nor Carey is willing to work on Thanksgiving.

I have neither the time nor the money to go on an Arctic cruise.


Note: Accidentally pairing either with nor or neither with or is an extremely common native English speaker error. Be careful that this error does creep into your own usage.


That’s all for this week’s lesson. Next week, we’ll cover some additional correlative conjunctions. In addition, we’ll discuss several important rules for using correlative conjunctions correctly.


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