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


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


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.


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:


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

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


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.


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.


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:

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

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

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

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 ______________________________________________________






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Ms. Quek

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.

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