When sentences commence with more than one introductory adverbial phrase--each of which is independently modifying the finite verb of the main clause--is it acceptable to leave out the conjunction?

Here's an example sentence:

"If you honestly read every page, if you do every exercise, if you follow every principle, you will go through an intellectual experience that will effect a radical change in you." -- from'How to Start Building a Better Vocabulary'

All three introductory adverbials are 'in coordination', in so far as they're all functioning the same way--all modifying 'will go'. But since there are three coordinated 'introductors', shouldn't there be an 'and' injected in between the second and third ones (between 'exercise' and 'if'), indicating that is a standard list? Is the author making an error here?

Thanks in advance for responses.

  • You're example looks fine. Because of the setup of the sentence, I would personally add then in this if/then formation. But still, it's not necessary to do so. A comma before you absolutely necessary as with any other if/then
    – Stu W
    Commented Mar 31, 2016 at 5:20

1 Answer 1


Briefly, no. Although we like to see a coordinating conjunction hold lists of nouns, verbs and independent clauses together, the same does not apply to coordinate modifiers.

Consider the string of simple adjectives:

"She wore an itsy-bitsy, teeny-weeny, yellow polka dot bikini."

Look ma, no conjunction.

Similarly, look at a series of coordinate adverbs:

"Slowly, carefully, not daring to breathe, Ashe began to defuse the bomb."

Nothing blows up, even though there's no conjunction.

Forcing a conjuction into the sentence given in the question would weaken the effect of anaphora, a powerful rhetorical device defined in the Forest of Rhetoric as

Repetition of the same word or group of words at the beginning of successive clauses, sentences, or lines.

I wouldn't call this textbook introduction poetry, but it's possibly the author's best shot at it.

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