Conquering Correlative Conjunctions in Sentence Synthesis: 3 Commandments to Comply with

Word of the day: Comply

In synthesis and transformation, have you ever been penalised for errors like the following?

Conquering Correlative Conjunctions in Sentence Synthesis

These errors are especially common in questions that involve the following pairs of words:

  • Both…and

  • Prefer…to

  • Rather…than

  • Either…or

  • Neither…nor

The above pairs of words are known as correlative conjunctions. A correlative conjunction is a matched pair of words that joins two words, phrases, or clauses that are balanced together.

The difficulty with handling such correlative conjunctions is that there are a few rules that one must apply for sentences that contain them. Today, I’ll be sharing these 3 rules that govern the usage of correlative conjunctions.

Conquering Correlative Conjunctions in Synthesis: 3 Commandments to Comply with

1. Parallelism

For correlative conjunctions, the word or phrase that follows each conjunction must be matched. This creates a logical balance, called parallelism, in the resultant sentence. Let’s look at the following examples:

3 Commandments to Comply with in Sentence Synthesis

Correlative conjunctions require parallel structures behind each conjunction. This means noun + noun, adjective + adjective, verb + verb, adverb + adverb or prepositional phrase + prepositional phrase.

Parallelism in Sentence Synthesis

For example (B) above, the word ‘the’ must be added for ‘dog’ because it must match ‘the cat’

Conquering Correlative Conjunctions - Parallelism

For example (C) above, the first answer is wrong because a verb (take my cousin) follows ‘either’ but a noun (me) follows ‘or’. There is hence no parallelism in the sentence. The 2 correct answers show parallelism because they follow the structures:

  • either [verb] or [verb]

  • either [noun] or [noun]

For such questions like (C), you could create parallelism by repeating the verb behind the second part of the correlative conjunction, or you could shift the verb all the way to the front, before the first part. 

2. Subject-verb agreement (for either…or / neither…nor)

The subject-verb agreement for ‘either…or’ and ‘neither…nor’ can be tricky. For these 2 correlative conjunctions, it is the noun closer to the verb that decides whether the verb should be singular or plural.

Subject-verb agreement (for either…or / neither…nor)

There is a simple way to remember the subject-verb agreement for ‘either…or’ and ‘neither…nor’. Apply the bridge rule! Draw a bridge between the correlative conjunction pair. The noun outside of the bridge will decide whether the verb is singular or plural.

Subject-verb agreement in Sentence Synthesis

3. Pronoun agreement (for either…or / neither…nor)

Lastly, there needs to be pronoun agreement for ‘either…or’ and ‘neither…nor’ sentences. Again, it is the noun closer to the pronoun that decides how the pronoun will look like. Let’s take a look at some examples:

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Once again, you can apply the bridge rule to check your pronoun agreement. The noun outside of the bridge will decide the pronoun.

Pronoun Agreement in Sentence Synthesis

I hope that you have learnt something useful for correlative conjunctions! Let’s check and see if you have internalised these rules with the questions below! (The answers can be found below!)

Q1. My brother does not like watching television. He likes to read instead.

___________________________ prefers ___________________________

Q2. Lina will not study for her Science exam. She will not study for her English exam.

___________________________ neither ___________________________

Q3. The children are participating in the race. The adults are participating in the race.

Both ______________________________________________________

Ms Quek - English Teacher at Lil' but Mighty

Ms. Quek is an English Teacher at Lil’ but Mighty. She is dedicated to helping her students do well in the language through a focus on the learning process. As an educator, she believes in creating a nurturing and stimulating environment for students to learn.


Q1. My brother prefers reading (gerund = noun) to watching television (gerund = noun). 


Q2. Lina will neither study for her Science exam (verb) nor study for her English exam (verb). OR

Lina will study for neither her Science exam (noun) nor her English exam (noun).


Q3. Both the children (noun) and the adults (noun) are participating in the race.

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