What Is Syndeton?

A rainbow over vessels in Cowichan Bay, British Columbia

Dave Blackey/Getty Images

Syndeton is a rhetorical term for a sentence style in which words, phrases, or clauses are joined by conjunctions (usually and). A construction that uses many conjunctions is called polysyndetic.

Examples and Observations

  • "At the marina, rain, and steam rising from the bay shrouded boats and birds, and made the few scurrying people indistinct."
    Blaize Clement, Raining Cat Sitters and Dogs. Minotaur Books, 2010
  • "I crawled back under the cover of the boat and huddled there, wet, cold and sobbing."
    Sam McKinney, Sailing Uphill. Touchwood, 2010
  • "The fine rain made a desolate, even sound like breathing in the pinewoods, and below, milky layers of mist covered the lake, and were stained here and there by the darkness of the water beneath."
    Elizabeth Bowen, "Salon des Dames"
  • "You are talking to a man who has laughed in the face of death, sneered at doom, and chuckled at catastrophe."
    The Wizard in The Wizard of Oz, 1939
  • "Rain on all the silent streets and squares, alleys and courts, gardens and churchyards and stone steps and nooks and crannies of the city."
    Susan Hill, The Mist in the Mirror. Sinclair-Stevenson, 1992


  • "He and Rawlins had unsaddled the horses and turned them out in the dark and they were lying on the saddle blankets and using the saddles for pillows. The night was cold and clear and the sparks rising from the fire raced hot and red among the stars. They could hear the trucks out on the highway and they could see the lights of the town reflected off the desert fifteen miles to the north."
    Cormac McCarthy, All the Pretty Horses. Alfred A. Knopf, 1992

Marking Coordination

"Coordination is usually but not invariably marked by one or more coordinators. Three patterns to be distinguished are shown in (6):

  • (6) i SIMPLE SYNDETIC You need [celery, apples, walnuts, and grapes].
  • (6) ii POLYSYNDETIC You need [celery and apples and walnuts and grapes].
  • (6) iii ASYNDETIC You need [celery, apples, walnuts, grapes].

The major contrast is between syndetic coordination, which contains at least one coordinator, and asyndetic coordination, which does not. In constructions with more than two coordinates, there is a further contrast within syndetic coordination between the default simple syndetic, which has a single coordinator marking the final coordinate, and polysyndetic, where all non-initial coordinates are marked by a coordinator (which must be the same for all of them). The coordinator forms a constituent with the coordinator which follows: we refer to expressions like and grapes as an expanded coordinate, with grapes itself a bare coordinate."
Rodney Huddleston and Geoffrey K. Pullum, "Coordination and Subordination." The Handbook of English Linguistics, ed. by Bas Aarts and April M. S. McMahon. Blackwell, 2006

mla apa chicago
Your Citation
Nordquist, Richard. "What Is Syndeton?" ThoughtCo, Aug. 28, 2020, thoughtco.com/syndeton-grammar-and-rhetoric-1692018. Nordquist, Richard. (2020, August 28). What Is Syndeton? Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/syndeton-grammar-and-rhetoric-1692018 Nordquist, Richard. "What Is Syndeton?" ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/syndeton-grammar-and-rhetoric-1692018 (accessed June 3, 2023).