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And what is the difference between coordinating and subordinating conjunctions? Is one kind of sentence (compound or complex) characterized by either a coordinating or subordinating conjunction, while the other kind is characterized by the other?

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This might be a good place to ask, but I'm having trouble understanding what you are asking. Do you think you can make your question clearer? –  KitFox Apr 12 '13 at 14:37
    
@KitFox: Are coordinating/subordinating conjunctions used in compound/complex sentences or clauses? Do I have my terms "backward?" Examples? Sorry for the "matrix" format of this question but I think in those terms. –  Tom Au Apr 12 '13 at 14:40
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1 Answer

up vote 3 down vote accepted

Yes, this is a good place. It's simple, really.

There are two ways to combine clauses. One of them is simply stacking together sentences, like

  • He went to the store and he bought some bread and he came home but he left it in the car.

This is a compound sentence (not "compound clause", by the way); it contains only clauses that are linked together by the coordinating conjunctions and, or, and but. Compound sentences can be reduced by Conjunction Reduction, producing, for instance

  • He went to the store and bought some bread and came home but left it in the car.

Compound sentences are easy; all the sentences are on the same level as main clauses, and none of them modify another clause.

Complex sentences — the other way to combine clauses — are not easy. A complex sentence has at least one subordinate clause, and there are a lot of different kinds of subordinate clause, each with their own set of rules and their own set of idioms and connotations.

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OK, it seems like my basic idea was right. "Coordinate" =compound, "subordinate = complex, and those are the ways you make sentences out of clauses. The examples were helpful. +1 possibly an acceptance, but I like to wait a day or two for the latter. –  Tom Au Apr 12 '13 at 14:51
    
Yeah, pretty much. But the names are irrelevant, really. Most sentences are complex sentences, and that's what syntax is mostly about. –  John Lawler Apr 12 '13 at 15:29
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