coordinate clause (grammar)

Glossary of Grammatical and Rhetorical Terms

coordinate clauses
Coordinate clauses stand side by side and are equal in grammatical rank. (Alma Haser/Getty Images)


In English grammar, a coordinate clause is a clause (i.e., a word group containing a subject and predicate) that is introduced by one of the coordinating conjunctions--most commonly and or but. Contrast with subordinate clause.

A compound sentence is made up of one or more coordinate clauses joined to a main clause. The rhetorical term for a coordinate construction is parataxis.

See Examples and Observations below.

Also see:


Examples and Observations

  • "It was apple-blossom time, and the days were getting warmer."
    (E.B. White, Charlotte's Web. Harper, 1952)

  • "I wasn't a fan of most vegetables, but I didn't mind peas."
    (Gene Simmons, Kiss and Make-Up. Crown, 2001)

  • "They ate the dessert, and neither one mentioned the fact that it was slightly burned."
    (Ernest Hemingway, "Christmas in Paris." The Toronto Star Weekly, December 1923)

  • "Her name was Emma Glenn, but no one except her closest friends and the white people on the river ever called her anything but Miss Emma."
    (Ernest J. Gaines, A Lesson Before Dying. Knopf, 1993)

  • "The farmhouse is surrounded by heavy oaks and maples, and a hundred acres of field corn are visible from the kitchen."
    (John McPhee, "Giving Good Weight." Giving Good Weight. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1979)

  • "In college the whole world opened up, and the books and poets being taught in my English and philosophy classes gave me the feeling for the first time in my life that there was hope, hope that I might find my place in a community."
    (Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life. Pantheon Books, 1994)

  • Combining Clauses
    "The basic unit in syntax is the clause. Many utterances consist of a single clause, but there are also rules for combining clauses into larger units. The simplest way is by using a coordinate conjunction, and, but, so and or. These may seem rather insignificant items but they represent a vast step forward from anything we can imagine in even the most sophisticated form of animal communication, and they are probably more complex than many people realize.

    "The most frequently used coordinating conjunction in speech is and, which is about as three times as frequent as but, with the other two fairly rare. Repeated use of and is common in narratives . . .."
    (Ronald Macaulay, The Social Art: Language and Its Uses, 2nd ed. Oxford University Press, 2006)

  • Coordination of Three Clauses
    - "We fed Tommy on the porch, but he was too wild to set foot in the kitchen, and only my grandmother, in a way wild herself, could touch him."
    (John Updike, "The Dogwood Tree: A Boyhood." Assorted Prose. Alfred A. Knopf, 1965)

    - "The dress I wore was lavender taffeta, and each time I breathed it rustled, and now that I was sucking in air to breathe out shame it sounded like crepe paper on the back of hearses."
    (Maya Angelou, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. Random House, 1969)

    - "In (2) there are three coordinated main clauses:
    (2) Crime was awful, test scores were low, and there was no enrollment in honors programs. [891102-0148-58]
    The three coordinated clauses are on the same level of coordination, but often two of the coordinated clauses are more closely linked and as a pair they are coordinated with the remaining clause. In (3)-(4), the first two clauses form a pair that is coordinated with the third--clearly indicated in (4) by the reinforcing initial Either:
    (3) Money is not everything, but it is necessary, and business is not volunteer work. [891102-0098-8]

    (4) Either defend the status quo and stop complaining about the resulting costs, or rethink the status quo. [891104-0107-35]"
    (Sidney Greenbaum, The Oxford English Grammar. Oxford University Press, 1996)

  • Verb Phrase Deletion and Gapping in Coordinate Clauses
    "VP deletion [represented by Δ in the examples that follow] can operate in either a subordinate clause (introduced here by even though) or a coordinate clause (preceded by and):
    Violet will stay out late tonight even though she shouldn't Δ. (subordinate clause)

    Violet will stay out late tonight, and she shouldn't Δ. (coordinate clause)
    In these examples, the deleted VP follows its antecedent. The deleted VP can also precede its antecedent, as in the following sentence:
    Even though she shouldn't Δ, Violet will stay out late tonight
    "A gap, on the other hand, can't occur in a subordinate clause, only in a coordinate clause:
    *Ziggy bought a Harley even though Alfie Δ a Yamaha. (subordinate clause)

    Ziggy bought a Harley, and Alfie Δ a Yamaha. (coordinate clause)
    And a gap can only follow, but never precede, its antecedent:
    *Alfie Δ a Yamaha, and Ziggy bought a Harley.
    Complexities aside, the important point here is that the ungrammaticality of these sentences tells us that VP deletion and gapping operate only under certain conditions. In addition to the rules of VP deletion and gapping, our unconscious knowledge of syntax includes an understanding of where these rules can operate and where they can't."
    (Kristin Denham and Anne Lobeck, Linguistics for Everyone: An Introduction, 2nd ed. Wadsworth, 2010)

  • Disconnected Coordinate Clauses in Conversation
    "In English conversation speakers often begin their utterances with and (also with so or but) without linking these connectives to immediately preceding linguistic material, but rather to more distant topics or even to their own as yet unarticulated (and unrecoverable) perspectives. In (29) the topic of the episode in which this utterance occurs concerns one of the participant's consistently getting sick when he travels in Mexico. In this example, the speaker's and is making reference to the whole discourse, not to a specific preceding utterance.
    (29) and you both eat the same things? (D12-4)"
    (Joanne Scheibman, Point of View and Grammar: Structural Patterns of Subjectivity in American English Conversation. John Benjamins, 2002)