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What Is a Conjunct?

By Meg Higa
Updated May 17, 2024
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Conjunct is derived from the Latin prefix con- for “with,” and the root -junct for “to join.” In linguistics, or the study of language, a conjunct is a word or phrase which ties together two or more expressions. The most common are referred as the coordinating conjunctions, such as the words “and” and “or.” Also common are adverbs and adverbial phrases which tie a sentence’s verb, or action, to its preceding or succeeding sentence. These can be classified according to the relationship between the two verbs.

As an element of grammar, some simple words with connective function are more simply called conjunctions; examples include the words "and," "or," and "so." They are normally used to tie two, contrasting, but otherwise equally weighted things or expressions together. They can also be used as a discourse connective, a conjunction that ties two sentences together. An example, though uncommon and considered less than proper by many people is, “My child’s reply filled me with pride. And, [it] broke my heart.”

Similar in function are adverbs which connect sentences. One example is, “I would never say that. Secondly, I can’t even pronounce it.” This type of conjunct is also more broadly referred as an adjunct, from the prefix ad- for “near.” It is typically a dispensable word whose absence may not change a sentence’s meaning, but whose addition clarifies a relationship. In this case, “secondly” provides an enumerative, sequential or hierarchical contrast between two ideas rooted in the verbs “say” and “pronounce.”

There are other relationships established by a conjunct. The adverb “additionally” is an additive to the discourse, while the prepositional phrase “in conclusion” is summative and “in other words” is an appositive, or a restatement of the preceding expression. Other relationships have more precise directives. The inferential conjunction “thus” is inevitable, whereas the concessive conjunct “nevertheless” is exceptional and the antithetic phrase “on the contrary” is a negation of the preceding expression.

A few adverbs express temporal relationship between two sentences. Examples are “meanwhile” and “still.” They often have a disconnected quality to any preceding expressions, and instead connect the expression that follows into the discourse. An example of this is, “I apologized profusely. Still, she felt angry.”

There is a reason why many conjuncts start a sentence, and are separated by a comma. Tying two expressions together, they are stand-alone words within the syntax of a sentence to be inserted between the expressions. Some languages, such as remnants of old German and Irish, require that the verbs of a sentence qualified by a conjunct adverb must change their tense, or verb ending. The written and spoken change is called the verb’s subjunctive, or conjunctive, mood.

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