Weird Coordinating Conjunctions: Yet, For, and So

Neal Whitman explains why FANBOYS is a myth and why yet, for, and so are different from and, but, and or.

Neal Whitman, Writing for
6-minute read

Yet Is Most Like And, Or, and But

We’ll consider yet next, because it’s the coordinator that’s most like and, or, and but. Yet is like but, because it can join just about any kind of phrase except for a noun phrase. It also shows contrast, as but does, although it’s a stronger kind of contrast known as concession. When you join two things with yet, it’s not just a contrast; it’s a surprising contrast. For example, to describe my complicated, love-hate relationship with something, I might say, “I like it, but I hate it,” or I could highlight the surprising contrast by saying, “I like it, yet I hate it.” When yet joins clauses, it is like the subordinating conjunction although. The sentences I like it, yet I hate it and I like it, although I hate it have the same meaning. However, we know yet is a coordinator, because like other coordinators, yet has to come between the clauses it connects. We can say Although I hate it, I like it, but Yet I hate it, I like it is nonsense. 

Even with all these similarities to other coordinators, one big difference separates yet from them: It can combine with other coordinators. Instead of saying “I like it, yet I hate it,” I could say, “I like it, and yet I hate it.” Or “I like it, but yet I hate it.” In this way, yet is more like an adverb than a conjunction, but it still has enough coordinator-like properties that we call it a coordinator. 

Nor has enough complications that I’m going to save it for another episode, where I can also talk about neither and not.

The Coordinators For and So Show Causation

The coordinators for and so show causation, which is probably why the only kind of phrases they can connect are entire clauses, unless you speak British English, in which case so can also join verb phrases. For has the same meaning as because, but we know it’s a coordinating conjunction because it has to come between the clauses it connects. For example, we could say She was starving, for she hadn’t eaten since the earthquake, but we can’t say For she hadn’t eaten since the earthquake, she was starving.

So is an interesting case. It can show the effect of a cause, as in She hadn’t eaten since the earthquake, so she was starving. Like other coordinators, it has to come between the clauses. It’s ungrammatical to say So she was starving, she hadn’t eaten since the earthquake. But listen to this sentence that I spoke during the sponsor message at the beginning of this episode: So they’ll know I sent you, use the URL AudiblePodcast.com/GG. Did you hear that? I used so at the beginning of the first clause, instead of between the two clauses it connected! Does that mean it’s a subordinating conjunction after all? 


About the Author

Neal Whitman, Writing for Grammar Girl

Neal Whitman PhD is an independent writer and consultant specializing in language and grammar and a member of the Reynoldsburg, Ohio, school board. You can search for him by name on Facebook, or find him on Twitter as @literalminded and on his blog at literalminded.wordpress.com.