Thinking Box

Fundamentals of English Grammar - Chapter 8: Connecting Ideas

8-1 Connecting Ideas with And

Connecting Items within a Sentence

  • (a) NO COMMA: I saw a cat and a mouse.
    (b) COMMAS: I saw a cat, a mouse, and a dog.

    When and connects only TWO WORDS (or phrases) within a sentence, NO COMMA is used, as in (a).
    When and connects THREE OR MORE items within a sentence, COMMAS are used, as in (b).*

Connecting Two Sentences

  • (c) COMMA: I saw a cat, and you saw a mouse.

    When and connects TWO COMPLETE SENTENCES (also called "independent" clauses), a COMMA is usually used, as in (c).

  • (d) PERIOD: I saw a cat. You saw a mouse.
    (e) INCORRECT: I saw a cat, you saw a mouse.

    Without and, two complete sentences are separated by a period, as in (d), not a comma.**
    A complete sentence begins with a capital letter; note that You is capitalized in (d).

* In a series of three or more items, the momma before and is optional.
ALSO CORRECT: I saw a cat, a mouse and a dog.
** A "period" (the dot used at the end of a sentence) is called a "full stop" in British English.

8-2 Connecting Ideas with But and Or

  • (a) I went to bed but couldn't sleep.
    (b) Is a lemon sweet or sour?
    (c) Did you order coffee, tea, or milk?

    And, but, and or are called "coordinating conjunctions."
    Like and, but and or can connect items within a sentence.
    Commas are used with a series of three or more items, as in (c).

  • I dropped the vase. = a sentence
    It didn't break. = a sentence
    (d) I dropped the vase, but it didn't break.
    (e) Do we have class on Monday, or is Monday a holiday?

    A comma is usually used when but or or combines two complete (independent) sentences into one sentence, as in (d) and (e).
    A conjunction can also come at the beginning of a sentence, except in formal writing.
    ALSO CORRECT: I dropped the vase. But it didn't break. / I saw a cat. And you saw a mouse.

8-3 Connecting Ideas with So

  • (a) The room was dark, so I turned on a light.

    So can be used as a conjunction, as in (a). It is preceded by a comma. It connects the ideas in two independent clauses.

    So expresses results:
    cause: The room was dark.
    result: I turned on a light.

  • COMPARE: The room was dark, but I didn't turn on a light.

    But often expresses an unexpected result, as in (b).

8-4 Using Auxiliary Verbs after But

(a) I don't like coffee, but my husband does.
(b) I like tea, but my husband doesn't.
(c) I won't be here tomorrow, but Sue will.
(d) I've seen that movie, but Joe hasn't.
(e) He isn't here, but she is.*

After but, often only an auxiliary verb is used. It has the same tense or modal as the main verb.
In (a): does = likes coffee

Notice in the examples:
negative + but + affirmative
affirmative + but + negative

8-5 Using And + Too, So, Either, Neither

  • (a) Sue works, and Tom does too. (S + AUX + TOO)
    (b) Sue works, and so does Tom. (SO + AUX + S)

    In affirmative statements, an auxiliary verb + too or so can be used after and.
    Examples (a) and (b) have the same meaning.

    Word order:
    subject + auxiliary + too
    So + auxiliary + subject

  • (c) Ann doesn't work, and Joe doesn't either. (S + AUX + EITHER)
    (d) Ann doesn't work, and neither does Joe. (NEITHER + AUX + S)

    An auxiliary verb + either or neither are used with negative statements.
    Examples (c) and (d) have the same meaning.
    Word order:
    subject + auxiliary + either
    neither + auxiliary + subject
    NOTE: An affirmative auxiliary is used with neither.

  • (e) I'm hungry.
    I am too. / So am I.
    (f) I don't eat meat.
    I don't either. / Neither do I.

    And is not usually used when there are two speakers.

  • (g) I'm hungry.
    Me too. (informal)
    (h) I don't eat meat.
    Me (n)either. (informal)

    Me too, me either, and me neither are often used in informal spoken English.

8-6 Connecting Ideas with Because

  • (a) He drank water because he was thirsty.

    Because expresses a cause; it gives a reason. Why did he drink water? Reason: He was thirsty.

  • (b) MAIN CLAUSE: He drank water.

    A main clause is a complete sentence:
    He drank water = a complete sentence

  • (c) ADVERB CLAUSE: because he was thirsty

    An adverb clause is NOT a complete sentence:
    because he was thirsty = NOT a complete sentence
    Because introduces an adverb clause:
    because + subject + verb = an adverb clause

  • (d) He drank water because he was thirsty.
    (e) Because he was thirsty, he drank water.

    An adverb clause is connected to a main clause, as in (d) and (e).
    In (d): main clause + no comma + adverb clause
    In (e): adverb clause + comma + main clause
    Examples (d) and (e) have exactly the same meaning.

    He drank water. Because he was thirsty.

    Example (f) is incorrect in written English: Because he was thirsty cannot stand alone as a sentence that starts with a capital letter and ends with a period. It has to be connected to a main clause, as in (d) and (e).

    Why did he drink some water?
    Because he was thirsty.

    In spoken English, an adverb clause can be used as the short answer to a question, as in (g).

8-7 Connecting Ideas with Even Though/Although

  • (a) Even though I was hungry, I did not eat.
    I did not eat even though I was hungry.
    (b) Although I was hungry, I did not eat.
    I didn't eat although I was hungry.

    Even though and although introduce an adverb clause.
    Examples (a) and (b) have the same meaning:
    I was hungry, but I did not eat.


  • (c) Because I was hungry, I ate.
    (d) Even though I was hungry, I did not eat.

    Because expresses an expected result, as in (c).
    Even though/although expresses an unexpected or opposite result, as in (d).