A comprehensive guide to coordinating conjunctions in French

Updated: Oct 14


Conjunctions are invariable linking words that help give more sense to your sentences. There are two main types of conjunctions in French: coordinating conjunctions and subordinating conjunctions. In today's lesson, our focus will be on the conjunctions of coordination like mais, où, et, donc, or ni car. You will get a list of the 7 coordinating conjunctions with examples and as usual, you will be able to practice through an exercise.



Conjunctions of coordination Mais ou et donc or ni car



What are in fact conjunctions?


Conjunctions are connective words that link two words, ideas, or clauses together. They help you give a better structure to your sentence and therefore make it more understandable. Learning these connective words is a great way to improve your fluency as you will be able to make more elaborated sentences.


Coordinating conjunctions as their name indicates help in the coordination of elements in the sentence. There are only a few of them and it's easy to keep them in mind by learning this mnemotechnic sentence that works so well: "Mais où est donc Ornicar?". Mais, ou, et, donc, or, ni, car are the 7 coordinating conjunctions referred to in this learning aid. And this translates as "but where is then Ornicar?"



1. Mais =but

The French word mais is translated in English as but. It Expresses opposition.

Example

  • J’aime le café mais sans sucre. => I like coffee but without sugar.

  • Il veut gagner de l’argent mais il ne veut pas travailler. => He wants to earn money but he doesn't want to work.



2. Ou = or


The English translation of Ou is or. It is used for alternative situations, and for making choices.

Example

  • Tu veux du pain ou un croissant? => Do you want some bread or a croissant?

Important note: do not make confusion with the other French word which is an adverb referring to a place. It takes an accent and generally means where.







3. Et = and

Et is used to link two parts of the sentence when we want to express the addition. It is nothing else than the English word "and". "Et" is generally located just before the last element of a list.

Example

Elle est jeune, intelligente et belle. => She is young, intelligent and beautiful.


4. Donc = so, therefore


Donc is the English equivalent of so or therefore. It is used to express the consequence.


Example:

  • Je suis fatiguée, donc je vais prendre un taxi pour rentrer chez moi. => I am tired, then I am going to take a taxi to go home.

  • Alex est malade, donc il n'assistera pas à la réunion. => Alex is sick, he won't therefore attend the meeting.


5. Or =but, yet


Don't mix the French Or, with the English word "Or". They are actually false cognates that might mislead you.

The French conjonction Or helps make the transition from one idea to another, or to draw a negative conclusion.


Example:

Il nous a dit de venir tôt; or lui-même n’était pas prêt. => He told us to come early, but he himself wasn't ready.


Note: It is frequent to see a coma (virgule) after or but this is not compulsory.

As you also know French words can have multiple meanings. The French word "Or", used as a noun can also mean "gold" in English. So, you need to always take into consideration the context in order to find the correct meaning of "Or".



6. Ni =neither ... nor


Ni is used for expressing negation. It can be used alone but is rarely used that way. The common way to place it in a sentence is with the negation word ne and the double negation " ni .... ni" which translates as Neither.. nor.


Example


Elle n'aime ni le yoga, ni la danse. => She neither likes yoga nor dancing.



7. Car = because


Car expresses the cause, the reason why something is happening or has happened. Car can be replaced by "parce que " which also means because.

This conjunction is not to be mixed up with

  • the English word car which translates as voiture in French

  • the French word Car which means an intercity bus.

Example

  • Il ne vient pas à la fête car il n'a pas reçu d'invitation. => He is not coming to the party because he didn't receive an invitation.

  • Il prend le bus car sa voiture est en panne. => He is taking the bus because his car is broken down.



French coordinating conjunctions

8. Coordinating conjunction - practice exercise


Here is a quiz to quickly put into practice what you have learned about French coordinating conjunctions.








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