What's the Correlation? Understanding and Using Correlative Conjunctions

Contributor: Allison Crews. Lesson ID: 13728

Correlative conjunctions connect words, phrases, and clauses through relationships to make meaning. Learn how in this lesson!


Grammar, Writing

English / Language Arts
learning style
personality style
Lion, Otter
Grade Level
High School (9-12)
Lesson Type
Quick Query

Lesson Plan - Get It!

Audio: Image - Button Play
Image - Lession Started Image - Button Start

Either the chicken or the fish would be fine.

Neither Sam nor Alexa had been told about the meeting.

Not only had she done the dishes, but she also polished the silver.

  • Looking at these three sentences, can you guess what the correlative conjunctions might be?

goofy giraffe

Keep reading to find out!

What Are Correlative Conjunctions?

Correlative conjunctions are two-part conjunctions that can join words, phrases, or clauses to develop the meaning of a sentence.

The two parts work together to emphasize the relationship between the grammatical components being joined.

Take a look at how they function:

I'm not only the president, but also I'm a client.

The current applicants have neither appropriate experience nor sufficient availability.

I could hardly sit still when I heard the news.

If the first example above were simply, "I am the president and a client," it would not emphasize the relationship between being both president and client of an organization simultaneously.

Using the correlative conjunction not only...but also enhances that emphasis.

Take a look at this chart of correlative conjunctions containing examples:

  Conjunction Example
  hardly ... when We had hardly started the test when the alarm sounded.
  such ... that Spot is such a good dog that he does not need a leash.
  neither ... nor Neither Sally nor Ruth knew how to play.
  whether ... or We had to continue the game whether it was raining or not.
  as ... as The cat was not meowing as often as she usually does.
  rather ... than I would rather have a grilled cheese than a ham sandwich.
  scarcely ... when Scarcely had she started singing when the microphone stopped working.
  both ... and Emily can both walk and chew gum.
  not only ... but also Not only pepperoni but also sausage was on the pizza.
  either ... or You may have either candy or cookies for dessert.
  so ... as Fred's slapshot isn't so accurate as Mark's.
  no sooner ... than No sooner had we started to play than the rain began.
  the more ... the more The more you study, the more you will know.
  so ... that The zombie attack happened so quickly that no one was prepared.


There are some tricky things to remember when using this construction, particularly subject-verb agreement and pronoun agreement.

  • If you connect two subjects using correlative conjunctions, the second subject agrees with the verb.
  • If you connect two antecedents using correlative conjunctions, any pronoun that follows would agree with the second antecedent.

Take a look at these examples:

Both the train and drivers congest the area with traffic.

Both drivers and the train congests the area with traffic.

And also:

Not only Sarah but also her brothers asked their parents for the new game.

Not only her brothers but also Sarah asked her parents for the new game.

  • Making sense so far?

smart dog

If you're ready to try some guided practice, click through to the Got It? section.

Image - Button Next