Commas and Coordinating Conjunctions (FANBOYS)

What are coordinating conjunctions?

Coordinating conjunctions are used to join multiple grammatical elements of equal importance. These elements could be nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, or even whole phrases and independent clauses. We all use coordinating conjunctions every day. But are you using them correctly?

Let’s look at:

  • How to use FANBOYS as coordinating conjunctions — including lots of examples
  • How coordinating conjunctions are different from subordinating conjunctions
  • Whether it’s proper to start a sentence with a coordinating conjunction
  • And why “however” isn’t included in FANBOYS

Here’s everything you need to know about FANBOYS.


3. NOR

NOR as a conjunction is used to introduce the second negative clause in a sentence. It means “also not.” Let’s take some examples of NOR.


  • I have never talked to that guy, nor do I want to do it.
  • We don’t want to buy this car, nor do we have money to do so.
  • She doesn’t have a boyfriend, nor does she want to have one.
  • I am not your friend, nor do I want to be.
  • He didn’t buy anything, nor did he pay the remaining amount.
  • I haven’t met her yet, nor have I informed her about the surprise party.

Note that the helping verb is coming before the subject in the second clause even though it’s not an interrogative sentence. This is called inversion. it generally happens in interrogative sentences, but nor clauses also follow the inversion.

NOR is also used in a correlative conjunction. It is a part of the conjunction ” neither… nor.” Let’s take some examples of NEITHER…NOR.

  • We are neither your friends nor your enemies.
  • She neither called me last night, nor messaged me.
  • Neither you nor I am the right fit for this job.

Beginning with and, but or or

What grammarians have to say about beginning a sentence with and or but :

and. 3 There is a persistent belief that it is improper to begin a sentence with And, but this prohibition has been cheerfully ignored by standard authors from Anglo-Saxon times onwards. An initial And is a useful aid to writers as the narrative continues.  The OED provides examples from the 9c. to the 19c. (Burchfield and Fowler 52)

but.  2 Used at the beginning of a sentence. The widespread public belief that But should not be used at the beginning of a sentence seems to be unshakable. Yet it has no foundation. In certain kinds of compound sentences, but is used to introduce a balancing statement of the nature of an exception, objection, limitation or contrast to what has gone before; sometimes, in its weakest form, merely expressing disconnection, or emphasizing the introduction of a distinct or independent fact. In such circumstances, but is most commonly placed after a semicolon, but it can legitimately be placed at the beginning of a sentence and frequently is. (Burchfield and Fowler 121)

and 1. Everybody agrees that it’s all right to begin a sentence with and, and nearly everybody admits to having been taught at some  time in the past that the practice was wrong.  Most of us think the prohibition goes back to our early school days.  Bailey 1984 points out that the prohibition is probably meant to correct the tendency of children to string together independent clause or simple declarative sentences with ands… (Merriam-Webster 93)

but 1. Part of the folklore of usage is the belief that there something wrong in beginning a sentence with but : "Many of us were taught that no sentence should begin with but .  If that’s what you learned, unlearn it—there is no stronger word at the start.  It announces total contrast with what has gone before, and the reader is primed for the change." —Zinsser 1976  (Several more quotes and examples are included.) (Merriam-Webster 211) Beginning a sentence with a conjunction. There is a widespread belief—one with no historical or grammatical foundation — that it is an error to begin a sentence with a conjunction such as and , but , or so .  In fact, a substantial percentage (often as many as 10 percent) of the sentences in first-rate writing begin with conjunctions.  It has been so for centuries, and even the most conservative grammarians have followed this practice. Charles Allen Lloyd’s 1938 words fairly sum up the situation as it stands even today: "Next to the groundless notion that it is incorrect to end an English sentence with a preposition, perhaps the most wide-spread of the many false beliefs about the use of our language is the equally groundless notion that it is incorrect to begin one with ‘but’ or ‘and’. (CMOS 5.191) Beginning a sentence with and or some other coordinating conjunction (but, or or nor ) can be an effective means—if not overused—of giving special attention to the thought that follows the conjunction. No comma should follow the conjunction at the start of a new sentence unless a parenthetical element occurs at that point. (Sabin 1101)

Fanboys Punctuation / Fanboys Comma Rule / Fanboys without a Comma

Two parts of a sentence when connected with Fanboys are always divided by a comma. The comma is used to divide two parts because each is a separate entity, and has a different idea. Fanboys are used to connect these two parts, and the ideas, but the comma shows where one part stops and the other begins.

So, a comma always divides the two parts of a sentence and the Fanboys.

  • , for / , and / , nor / , but / , or / , yet / , so

Compound sentences without Fanboys

Compound sentences can be created without Fanboys. Since Fanboys are only one type of conjunction, you can also use the other types. Compound sentences can be created with correlative conjunctions, or subordinating conjunctions.

Correlative conjunction example:

  • Julian said he would fix the roof by Monday, whether he does that is a different story.

Subordinating conjunction examples:

  • I might get an A in this class, only if I a get at least a B- on this last test.
  • We can finally move on to the production phase, now that we’ve all signed the forms.
  • There’s always aspirin in the medicine cabinet, in case anyone needs it.

There are various conjunctions in the English language which are used to create compound sentences. Fanboys are one of the most common ones, but others are also used fairly frequently.

How coordinating conjunctions are different from subordinating conjunctions

FANBOYS are most often used as coordinating junctions to join grammatical elements, as we’ve seen so far. But they can also be used as subordinating conjunctions. In subordinating conjunctions, the grammatical elements are not equal; one is dependent on the other.

Example of subordinating conjunctions

I started freelance writing so I could earn extra money.

In this example, “I could earn extra money” is dependent on the clause “I started freelance writing.” This makes “so” a subordinating conjunction in this example.

Focus and Solutions

Error and Solution


*We went food shopping, and bought dinner. (clause + phrase)

*We bought meat, and vegetables.  (noun + noun) 

~We went food shopping and he washed the car.   (short clauses—optional comma)

*We went food shopping because we were out of milk and eggs and he took that opportunity to get his car washed while we were busy.    (longer clauses—comma)

We bought meat, vegetables, and fruit.   (OK – items in a series)

*Leave your luggage with your responsibility.  (missing logic, coordinator)

LeavePop-Q Leave


We went food shopping and bought dinner.

We went food shopping as well as bought dinner.

We went food shopping plus bought dinner.

Not only did we food shop, but also we bought dinner.

We went food shopping, then we bought dinner.

We went food shopping, and we bought dinner.

We went food shopping. Also, we bought dinner.

We bought meat and vegetables.

A comma is unnecessary before and when joining two small similar sentence elements—verb phrases, noun phrases, adjective phrases, adverb phrases, and so on. 

We went food shopping, and he washed the car.

We went food shopping.  And he washed the car.

We went food shopping; he washed the car. (semicolon)

We went food shopping. He washed the car. (period)

Normally, a comma is placed before "and" when joining two independent clauses. However, if the clauses are short or share the same subject, the comma may be omitted.

We bought meat, vegetables and fruit.

We bought meat, vegetables, and fruit.   (See "Oxford Comma".)

Place a comma after items in a series.  A comma is placed before and if needed to avoid confusion. I want tuna, peanut butter and jelly, and egg sandwiches. 

You may leave your luggage, but it is your responsibility to watch it.

Leave your luggage at your own risk(expression)

Can you start a sentence with a coordinating conjunction?

Perhaps your teacher taught you that you should never start a sentence with the FANBOYS. But the truth is, you can. (I just did.) The reason your teacher may have taught you this was to discourage you from writing sentence fragments. Once you are past that developmental stage, however, there is no reason why you can’t start a sentence with a conjunction. Let’s vary the examples above.

I don’t want to throw away my candy bars, nor do I wish to listen to my brother. But I adore candy bar factories. And I want to own one someday.

Just remember not to overuse these kinds of sentences, because too many of them can sound punchy.

When do you use a comma?

There is a simple and effective test that you can use to determine if a comma is needed: Read each clause that is joined by the conjunction separately and see if it can stand on its own as a sentence. A clause that can stand on its own is also known as an independent clause. If both sides can stand on their own, a comma is required before the conjunction.

“I went to the store, and I bought some apples.”

Since “I went to the store” and “I bought some apples” are both independent clauses, this comma is required.

However, if one of the clauses cannot stand on its own as a complete sentence (aka a dependent clause), do not separate the clauses with a comma.

“I went to the store and bought some apples.”

Since “bought some apples” is a dependent clause, do not use a comma before the conjunction.

Conjunctions that connect two phrases

The rules for using coordinating conjunctions to join grammatically equal phrases are the same.

He seemed poorly groomed yet well mannered.

By covering my past-due bills with a brick, I can put them out of sight and out of mind.

Can we start a sentence with a COORDINATING conjunction?

Though your teachers have told you not to do it, the answer is still YES. You can start a sentence with a coordinating conjunction if that helps you to communication your message effectively.

Most teachers tell you not to start a sentence with a coordinating conjunction as it ends up giving you sentence fragments. So, start a sentence with a coordinating conjunction if that’s needed or helpful to strengthen you message. But don’t overdo it. Observe that the previous two sentences start with a coordinating conjunction (SO, BUT).