Coordination and Subordination


Coordination is the combining of sentences using coordinating conjunctions: for, and, nor, but, or, yet, so. These conjunctions combine sentences of equal value.

FANBOYS Coordinating Conjunctions

For (because) I brought an umbrella, for the news report said it would rain.

And (also) Jenny drives an old Ford truck, and her brother drives a tiny Kia.

Nor (and not) She wouldn’t read the book, nor would she see the movie.

But (however) I was going to see the talk, but I felt too tired to get out of bed.

Or (choice) You can go to work in Tampa, or you can stay in New Port Richey.

Yet (nevertheless) The neighbors complained, yet he continued to party until 4 a.m.

So (consequently) The car had a flat tire, so we were late for class.

Comma Use

Commas are not always needed. Only use commas in these two situations:

  1. Joining two independent clauses:

If the coordinating conjunction joins two independent clauses (sentences that can stand on their own), a comma is used. If not, no comma is used.

No comma: I went to the store and went home.

The word group I went to the store can stand alone as a complete sentence. It contains a subject, I, and a verb, went. However, the second part of the sentence is not independent. It contains no subject.

Comma needed: I went to the store, and he stayed home.

Here, there are two independent clauses, each with both a subject (I and he) and a verb (went and stayed). Therefore, a comma is required.

  1. Three or more items in a series:

If you have three or more items, you will need to add commas.

No Comma: I like apples and bananas.

There are only two items.

No Comma: I like apples baked with walnuts and bananas topped with chocolate and whipped cream.

It does not make any difference if there is more than one word in the item.

Comma needed: I like apples, bananas, and peaches.

There must be a comma before the and. (Note: Many publications and teachers do not use the comma before the and. However, on standardized tests, it is required.)


  1. Never start a sentence with a coordinating conjunction.
  2. Only use a comma when you join 2 complete sentences or 3 or more items in a row.
  3. The comma always goes before the coordinating conjunction.

*Be careful about “FOR.” Sometimes it is a coordinating conjunction (FANBOYS) needing a comma, and sometimes it is simply a preposition which never needs a comma. If you can substitute the word because, it is a coordinating conjunction.

Conjunction: I stayed up all night worrying, for my son was in the hospital.

Preposition: I had to bring my own water for the camping trip.

Coordination is one way of combining sentences to add variety to writing instead of only using

short sentences.


Subordination is another way of combining sentences for variety. It is also a way of showing relationships between thoughts. Subordination is different than coordination. In coordination, the sentences being joined have equal value. In subordination, the sentences being combined are not equal. In fact, one is subordinate to the other.

Some common subordinating conjunctions include:


if after because when

though although before while



  1. You can use a subordinating conjunction at the beginning or in the middle of a sentence. However, remember that subordinating conjunctions begin phrases or clauses.
  • If you start a sentence with a subordinating conjunction,use a comma.
  • Do not use a comma if the subordinating conjunction is in the middle.
  1. The comma is never near the subordinating conjunction. It goes at the end of the first part of the sentence.
  • If, you go you must bring a hat. = Incorrect
  • If you go, you must bring a hat. = Correct

For more information on comma use with coordination and subordination, see Comma Use.