EVERYTHING (ALMOST) YOU WANTED TO KNOW (WHO WANTS TO KNOW ABOUT THIS STUFF?), BUT WERE AFRAID TO ASK. I am totally html inept, but will do my best to keep this blog supplied with plenty of syntax junk. The main aim here is to help my students (my future colleagues, in fact) come to grips with the syntax of English, even if they can't stand it.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

CORRELATIVE COORDINATING CONJUNCTIONS

The main correlative coordinators are:

Either…or, / both…and, / neither…nor

The first element of these three correlatives (either, both, neither) determines the function—alternative, addition or negative addition—, while the second element (or, and, nor) contains ellipsis.

a)Either…or (EXCLUSION / ALTERNATIVE)

This correlative is extremely common in English and has the most flexibility in terms of positioning.

e.g. INITIAL POSITION - EITHER YOU SMOKED A CIGAR OR A FRENCH CIGARETTE.
- The subject and verb “you smoked” is the same for “cigar” and “French cigarette“ (Either you smoked a cigar or "you smoked" a French cigarette).

This is very common when the predicates (verb and complement/object) are equal for the subjects:

e.g. EITHER BOB OR PETER SMOKED A CIGAR.
- The predicate “smoked a cigar” is the same for “Peter” and “Bob“ (Either Bob "smoked a cigar" or Peter smoked a cigar).

Still, it may be used prior to the predicate when the subject is the same in the two independent ideas.

e.g. PRIOR TO VERB - YOU EITHER SMOKED A CIGAR OR A FRENCH CIGARETTE.
- The subject and verb “you smoked” is the same for “cigar” and “French cigarette“ (You either smoked a cigar or "you smoked" a French cigarette).

This can be prior to a verb or an auxiliary verb:

e.g. YOU EITHER CAN STAY OR GO.
- The subject and auxiliary verb “you can” is the same for the verb “stay” and “go“ (You either can stay or "you can" go).

Still, it may be used prior to the object/complement when the subject and the verb are the same in the two independent ideas.

e.g. POST-VERB POSITION - YOU SMOKED EITHER A CIGAR OR A FRENCH CIGARETTE.
b) both…and (ADDITION)

When adding two ideas, this correlative is extremely handy.

e.g. INITIAL POSITION - BOTH SHIRLEY AND GAIL BROUGHT A PAVLOVA TO THE PARTY.
- The predicate “brought a Pavlova to the party” is equal for the subjects “Shirley” and “Gail” (Shirley "brought a Pavlova to the party" and Gail brought a Pavlova to the party).

e.g. POST-VERB POSITION - SHIRLEY BROUGHT BOTH PAVLOVA AND JELLO TO THE PARTY.
- The subject and verb “Shirley bought” is the same for the objects “Pavlova” and “jello” (Shirley brought pavlova and "Shirley brought" jello to the party).

Although not so common in English, this correlative can be placed prior to the verb.

e.g. PRIOR TO VERB - GAIL BOTH DANCED AND DRANK AT THE PARTY.
- The subject “Gail” is the same for the verbs “danced” and “drank” (Gail danced at the party and "Gail" drank at the party).

c) Neither…nor (NEGATIVE ADDITION)

Considered a little formal in English nowadays, this correlative is only used for negative addition.

When the predicates (verb and complement) are equal for the subjects, the initial position is common.

e.g. INITIAL POSITION - NEITHER YOU NOR I ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR THE RAIN.
- The predicate “to be responsible for the rain” is the same for “you” and “I” (I am NOT responsible for the rain and you "are NOT responsible for the rain").

This PRIOR TO VERB POSITION (and the POST-VERB POSITION) will invoke the use of an inversion* if the verb is repeated.

e.g. YOU CAN NEITHER BE HELD RESPONSIBLE FOR THE RAIN, NOR CAN YOU BE HELD RESPONSIBLE FOR THE THUNDER.
- The repetition of the verb structure “can be held” AFTER the negative coordinator “nor” invokes the use of an inversion (auxiliary verb is placed before the subject, like a question format).

However, when possible, ellipsis is more common.

e.g. YOU CAN NEITHER BE HELD RESPONSIBLE FOR THE RAIN, NOR THE THUNDER.
- The subject and predicate “You can not be responsible” is the same for “the rain” and “the thunder” (“You can not be responsible for” is in ellipsis).

e.g. POST-VERB POSITION - IT RAINS NEITHER HARD, NOR DOES IT RAIN SOFTLY.
- The repetition of the verb structure “it rains” AFTER the negative coordinator “nor” invokes the use of an inversion (auxiliary verb is placed before the subject, like a question format).

e.g. NO VERB REPETITION - IT RAINS NEITHER HARD NOR SOFTLY.

There are other correlative conjunctions:

e.g. I DIDN’T WANT TO HURT YOU, BUT (RATHER) HELP YOU.
- "no(t)…but (rather)" shows ALTERNATIVE

e.g. SHE NOT ONLY SUED HER HUSBAND, BUT ALSO GOT CUSTODY OF THE CHILDREN.
- "not only…but also" shows ADDITION

* Inversions are common when this correlative is used in the initial position.

e.g. INITIAL POSITION - NOT ONLY DID* SHE SUE HER HUSBAND, BUT SHE ALSO GOT CUSTODY OF THE KIDS.

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