A coordinate clause is made when you connect two independent clauses of equal importance. These clauses are joined by coordinating conjunctions. The following are all coordinating conjunctions:

  • for;
  • and;
  • nor;
  • but;
  • or;
  • yet;

We can remember them with the helpful mnemonic, FANBOYS.

Coordinate Clause Examples

To fully understand how a coordinate clause works, it’s best to look at some examples. Here are some sentences that all include a coordinate clause:

She was going to the store for she had run out of bread.

I’m going to the park and I’m going to the cinema later.

I don’t like carrots nor do I like cauliflower.

He wanted to go to the beach but it started raining.

You can feed the dog or you can wash the dishes.

They have homework to do yet they keep putting it off.

I’m feeling sick today so I’m going to see the doctor.

The most common coordinating conjunctions we use in everyday language are ‘and,’ ‘but,’ and ‘so.

Disconnected Coordinate Clauses

You might notice that some people begin their sentences with a coordinating conjunction. But is that grammatically correct? Again, it depends on who you ask.

In spoken English, it’s common for someone to begin a sentence with a coordinating conjunction. So, for example, they might say something like this:

I love going to the beach. And I love swimming in the sea too.

When we’re speaking, we might have another thought that connects to the one we’ve just spoken – but we’ve already finished saying the first sentence. So, we connect them by coordinating conjunction at the beginning of the next sentence. There’s no way to go back and alter the first sentence since it’s spoken, which is why we end up with independent coordinate clauses like these when we say.

Disconnected coordinate clauses are considered informal, so they’re not used in formal texts. Instead, they’re used in informal writing or dialogue.

What is the difference between a coordinate and a subordinate clause?

Coordinate and subordinate clauses are both ways of combining sentences, so it cannot be easy to get the difference between them right.

A good way to remember the difference between the two is to first think of the meaning of ‘coordinate.’ To coordinate means to work together on equal standing. A coordinate clause contains two sentences with equal importance. So, remember that in a coordinate clause, the two sentences work together as a team to make one coordinate clause. Even without the coordinating conjunction, both sentences would make sense individually.

On the other hand, ‘subordinate’ means someone or something is under someone else’s authority. Unlike ‘coordinate,’ they’re not on equal standing. So, in a subordinate clause, one clause is more essential than the other. One clause depends on the other to make sense and doesn’t make sense on its own. For the subordinating clause to make sense, you must connect it to the first clause using a subordinating conjunction.

Subordinate clauses also have a different set of conjunctions altogether from coordinate clauses. Instead of FANBOYS, it’s I SAW A WABUB, which stands for:

  • if;
  • since;
  • as;
  • when;
  • although;
  • while;
  • after;
  • before;
  • until;

To help illustrate the difference even further, here is a coordinate clause and a subordinate clause compared:

Coordinate Clause

Subordinate Clause

I’ll finish my homework, and I’ll go to the park.

I’ll go to the park after I finish my homework.

In the coordinate clause, both actions happen at some time in the future, but it’s not specified in which order they’ll happen. ‘I’ll finish my homework’ and ‘I’ll go to the park’ also make complete grammatical sense independently.

In the subordinate clause, the subordinating conjunction ‘after’ tells us the order that the actions will happen. The speaker will finish their homework first and go to the park second. Plus, only the clause, ‘I’ll go to the park,’ is an independent clause that makes sense. After I finish my homework, the clause depends on the main clause to make sense and has to be connected.

As you can see, the two clauses are similar, but they have distinct differences!

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