These are conjunctions whose pairs correlate or agree with each other in usage. Some of the examples of correlative conjunctions include: ‘Both…and’, ‘Not only…but also’, ‘Either…or’, ‘Neither…nor’, ‘Hardly…when’, ‘No sooner…than…’, etc.
You should understand that these pairs of words are inseparable. They are in pairs and used together. The ellipsis punctuation (…) in front of the two words indicates that certain words, phrases, or sentences are missing. Consider the following illustrations:
(a) ‘Either…or…’ is correlative conjunction denoting one of two persons or things. For example:
(i) Either the principal or his vice should attend the meeting.
(ii) Either schooling or trading, you should prefer one.
Sentence (i) suggests that one of the two persons should attend the meeting. It may be the principal or his vice. Sentence (ii) suggests that the person should prefer one of the two things: schooling or trading.
(b) However, only ‘either’ can be used to denote one thing or person out of two persons or things indirectly. Remember that ‘either expresses only two things or persons. Look at the following examples:
(i) Either of the two students is here.
(ii) Either of the two assignments was done.
The sentence (i) means that one of the two students is here, and the sentence (ii) means that one of the two assignments was done. It is wrong to use ‘any’ in place of ‘either’ while referring to one out of two persons, things, or places. Therefore, don’t say:
Any of the two classes has been damaged.
The word ‘any’ is used to refer to one out of more than two items. For example: ‘Any of the students can come means that one of more than two students can come.
(b) The pair ‘either…or…’ is followed by a singular verb. For example:
(i) Either Esther or Bimpe has eaten. Don’t say: have
(ii) Either of the two assignments was done. Don’t say: were.
(a) ‘Neither…nor…’ is a pair of correlative conjunction denoting none of the two persons or two things. For example:
(i) Neither the chairman nor the secretary was around.
(ii) Neither my pen nor my pencil is lost.
The sentence (i) above means that none of ‘the chairman’ and ‘the secretary’ is around. The sentence (ii) also means that none of ‘my pen’ and ‘my pencil’ is lost.
(b) It should be noted that ‘neither’ can be used only to express none of the two persons or two things. Examine the following examples:
Neither of my two cars was stolen.
The sentence above means that none of my two cars was stolen.
(c) ‘Neither…nor…’ is followed by a singular verb. For example:
(i) Neither Tola nor Timothy goes there. Don’t say: go.
(ii) Neither of the two English language teachers attends the meeting. Don’t say: attend.
(d) In some cases, the pronoun ‘them’ may be used with the word ‘neither’ or ‘either’ to express only two persons or things. Consider the examples below.
(i) Either of them eats here.
(ii) Neither of them came to the party.
‘them’ in sentences (i) and (ii) refers to two persons or things.
The pair of correlative conjunction ‘both…and…’ is used to indicate two persons or two things. This pair of words is also used to join only two items together. For example:
(a) Both…and…’ can join two singular nouns.
Both a student and a teacher won the prizes.
‘a student’ and ‘a teacher’ which both…and…join are singular nouns.
(b) It can also join two plural nouns.
Both students and teachers won the prizes.
‘students’ and ‘teachers which ‘both…and…’ join are plural nouns.
(c) It can also join two phrases.
Both that bungalow and that two-storey building have collapsed.
‘that bungalow’ and ‘two-storey building’ that ‘both…and…’ join are phrases.
(d) ‘Both…and…’ is also possible to join two clauses.
Both the man who came here and the one who didn’t should be given prizes.
‘the man who came here and ‘the one who didn’t’ joined by ‘both…and…’ are clauses.
(e) Note that ‘both’ can be used to express only two items. For example:
Both of the boys are around now. (This means that two of the boys are around)
The pronoun ‘them’ is also possible after ‘of’ to indicate two items.
Both of them are here. (While referring to two persons or two things)
(f) The articles such as ‘a/an’ or ‘the’ and any determiners such as few, some, little, every, several, etc., must not precede ‘both’. So, don’t say:
(i) both girls and boys
(ii) Some both Christians and Muslims.
Instead, they can occur after ‘both’.
Say these ways:
(i) Both the girls and the boys.
(ii) Both some Christians and some Muslims.
(g) Note that ‘Both…and… should be followed by a plural verb. For example:
(i) Both boys and girls have impressed me. Don’t say: has.
(ii) Both of them are here. Don’t say: is.
(Not only…but also…)
(a) This pair of correlative conjunction is used to denote two ideas and other items. It is used to suggest that the two items joined by ‘not only…but also…’ are included. Also, you should note that ‘not only’ precedes a lexical verb and occurs after an auxiliary verb in a sentence. Consider the illustration below.
(i) I not only studied English Language but also Literature-in-English.
(ii) The students are not only making noises but also fighting one another.
The sentence (i) implies that the speaker studied both English Language and Literature-in-English. Sentence (ii) implies that the students are both making noises and fighting one another.
(b) You should not omit ‘also’ from ‘but’ while ‘not only’ is used to mean that two items are included in a sentence. So, ‘only’ and ‘also’ must be used together. Look at the example below.
I am not only here but also my father.
But don’t say:
I am not only here but my father.
(c) Instead, ‘not…but…’ can be used together. This means that if ‘also’ is not used with ‘but’, so also ‘only’ must not be used with ‘not’. Consider the following examples:
(i) He is not dancing but jumping.
(ii) I did not study Literature-in-English but English Language.
Semantically, the effect of ‘not only…but also…’ is different from that of ‘not…but…’ in a sentence. Now, compare the following interpretations with the previous ones.
The sentence (i) suggests that the person is only jumping. Sentence (ii) suggests that the speaker only studied the English Language.
In contrast, there is a special case where also can be left from not only. If there are two statements, and the second statement is more surprising or emphatic than the first, then but can only be used with not only. Consider this example:
My father not only advised me but gave me money.
The word ‘hardly’ means ‘not’, ‘almost not’, or ‘never’ and it is used with the subordinator ‘when’, to complement each other. So, when ‘hardly’ is used, the only subordinator required is ‘when’. Let us examine the illustrations below.
(a) ‘hardly’/‘scarcely’ should precede a lexical verb. It shows difficulty. For example:
(i) I hardly attend church when I am in Abuja.
(ii) The man hardly takes a bath when it is raining.
The sentence (i) implies that the speaker finds it difficult to attend church when he is in Abuja. Also, sentence (ii) implies that the speaker finds it difficult to take a bath when it is raining.
(b) ‘Hardly’/scarcely should occur after an auxiliary verb. It expresses ‘not’. For example:
(i) I was hardly/scarcely around when you came.
(ii) They have hardly/scarcely finished their work when the chairman arrives.
The sentence (i) means the speaker was not around when the second person came. The sentence (ii) also means that the people concerned have not finished their work when the chairman arrives.
(c) ‘Hardly/scarcely’ may begin the sentences, in some cases, to indicate ‘never’ or ‘not’. If it begins the sentence, it must be followed by an auxiliary verb immediately before the subject. For example:
(i) Hardly/Scarcely shall we fear when God is with us.
(ii) Hardly/Scarcely would I wait when you were not around.
The Sentence suggests that the speakers shall not fear when God is with them. The sentence (ii) suggests that the speaker would not wait when the second person was not around.
It should be carefully noted in senta ence (i) that the auxiliary ‘shall’ follows ‘hardly/scarcely’ before the subject ‘we’. In sentence (ii), the auxiliary ‘would’ fofollowhardly/scarcely’ before the subject ‘I’.
(d) Hardly/Scarcely can be used alone without ‘when’ to indicate ‘never or not. For example:
(i) He has hardly/scarcely slept.
(ii) Dare hardly/scarcely comes to school every day.
The sentence (i) implies that the person has not slept. Sentence(ii) implies that the person does not come to school every day.
‘No sooner…than…’ is often used to express that something happens immediately after something else. It usually occurs at the beginning of the sentences. Using ‘no sooner…than…’ in a sentence will attract the immediate auxiliary verb before the subject. The subject may be a pronoun or a noun. Examine the following examples:
(i) No sooner did I get to Bodija than I became suspicious.
(ii) No sooner was the choir singing than the chairman came.
(iii) No sooner does she want to eat than it is raining.
(i) ‘No sooner I did get to Bodija than…’
(ii) ‘No sooner the choir was singing than…’
(iii) ‘No sooner she does want to eat than…’
The sentence (i) means ‘not later than the speaker got to Bodija, he was suspicious’. The sentence (ii) means ‘not later than the choir was singing, the chairman came’. The sentence (iii) means ‘not later than the speaker wants to eat, it started raining’.
Use the following pairs of words correctly in the sentences:
(iv) Not only…but also…
(vii) No sooner…than…