Correlative Conjunctions

Correlative conjunctions work together in pairs. We use them to link one part of a sentence to another.

The main correlative conjunctions we can use are ‘either… or’, ‘neither… nor’, ‘both… and’ and ‘not only… but also.’

Either…or

Either… or’ is used to link two choices. We put ‘either’ before the first choice. We put ‘or’ between the two choices:

  • It’s either pink or red. (It could be pink, or it could be red.)
  • We can go to either Italy or Spain next year. (We could go to Italy, or we could go to Spain).
  • Either John or Henry has your coat. (John might have your coat, or Henry might have your coat).

Neither…nor

Neither… nor’ is used to link two choices that are not available. Again, we put ‘neither’ before, and ‘nor’ between:

  • It is neither blue nor green. (It is not blue, and it is not green).
  • I am neither hungry nor thirsty. (I am not hungry, and I am not thirsty).
  • Neither my sister nor my brother went on holiday. (My sister and my brother did not go on holiday).
Note: When we use ‘either… or’ or ‘neither… nor’, we have two choices. The verb must agree with the second subject.
Neither Tom nor Ryan is coming to the party. (Ryan is singular.) NOT: Neither Tom nor Ryan are coming to the party.

Both…and

Both… and’ is used to link two things that are equally included. Again, we put ‘both’ before, and ‘and’ between:

  • Both Sally and Harry were eating. (Sally was eating. Harry was also eating.)
  • I like both cake and chocolate. (I like cake. I also like chocolate.)
  • My friend is both clever and funny. (My friend is clever. My friend is also funny.)
Note: When we use ‘both… and’, the verb is always plural because both things are equally included.
Both Karen and Lucy are eating.

Let’s summarize this information:

both either neither
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Not only…but also

Not only… but also’ is similar to ‘both… and’. It is used to link two things that are equally included. Usually, ‘not only’ is before something we expect, and ‘but also’ is before something we do not expect:

  • The dress is not only beautiful, but also very comfortable. (The dress is beautiful. It is also very comfortable.)
  • I not only like cake, but I also like salad. (I like cake. I also like salad.)
  • My friend is not only clever, but also sporty. (My friend is clever. My friend is also sporty.)
Note: Remember the ‘either… or’ and ‘neither… nor’ rule? When we use ‘not only… but also’, the verb must also agree with the second subject.

Not only my friends, but also my Mother wants to visit. (Mother is singular.) 
NOT: Not only my friends, but also my Mother want to visit.

Here’s a good video from 7ESL explaining correlative conjunctions and their usage:

See also:

Coordinating Conjunctions

Conjunctions of Contrast

Linking Words of Cause and Effect

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