When we join two nouns by a coordinating conjunction, we can say that this forms a noun phrase. This is evident, as it can be supplemented by an appositive (example below).

Peter and Jane, a devote couple, attended their wedding.

When we have two independent clauses joined by a coordinating conjunction, we can call this a compound sentence (example below).

They attended their wedding, and the ceremony was marvelous.

Now, I was thinking about other elements that can be linked by a coordinating conjunction — such as verbs, prepositional phrases, etc. — and I wondered whether they can be viewed as one unit (or phrase).

See this next example:

He jumped and lunged towards the door.

Here we have two verbs, 'jumped and lunged', both of which have been modified by the prepositional phrase 'towards the door'. Syntactically, do we consider 'towards the door' to be an adjunct modifier of the verb phrase 'jumped and lunged', or does it modify 'jumped' and 'lunged' separately?

This can become more complex, as you can see in this next example:

He went to the circus despite his fear of clowns and found that his experience was anything but traumatic.

Could we consider everything after the subject, 'he', to be a verb phrase (the predicate)? I am aware that this analysis may be considered pointless, but I am very curious.

  • 1
    Equally acceptable is Bacon and eggs, my favourite breakfast, was on the menu: so unitary that singular agreement is used by many. But equally possible is Peter and Jane, two people with very different attitudes to life, avoided each other studiously. Coordination entails neither cohesion (the unitary reading) nor disparateness (just two things located near to each other in space, on a list, etc) ... either is equally acceptable. Commented Feb 24, 2022 at 14:32

2 Answers 2


What you're asking is whether certain kinds of constructions are Constituents. The term is an important one in syntax, because it turns out that syntactic rules only refer to constituents in a sentence, not to words or strings in general.

Sentences are constituents themselves (the "S" at the top of the tree) and they are composed of subordinate constituents, like noun phrases, verb phrases, prepositional phrases, and conjoined noun phrases like bread and butter.

Coordinating conjunctions and, but, and or connect constituents (of some variety) with constituents of the same variety, creating a new constituent of the same variety. I.e, Mary's book and Jan's doll are both noun phrases, and so is Mary's book and Jan's doll, in the sentence

  • [[Mary's book] and [Jan's doll]] are both on the landing.

Sentences can be conjoined, or verb phrases, or any other kind of constituent. There are special English syntactic rules about conjoined constituents. One can often delete repeated material, optionally, as in

  • Bill washed the dishes and Bill dried the dishes.

which is grammatical, though repetitious. Conjunction Reduction deletes stuff, producing

  • Bill washed and dried the dishes.
  • In the context of 'He jumped and lunged towards the door', where 'towards the door' is intended to modify both 'jumped' and 'lunged', is this another example of conjunction reduction ('He jumped [towards the door] and lunged towards the door')? Naturally, a writer would want to improve this sentence to avoid ambiguity (i.e., the reader assuming that 'he' jumped in one spot before lunging towards the door).
    – MJ Ada
    Commented Feb 27, 2022 at 16:31

He jumped and lunged toward the door.
In this example, toward the door applies only to lunged, unless you can justify jumping for the door and lunging for the door as two different things.

In the example

He went to the circus despite his fear of clowns and found that his experience was anything but traumatic.

everything after he is predicated about him, but went and found are two verbs at the same level, joined by and. So, two coordinated verb phrases form the predicate.

Whether you can consider coordinated things as a unit depends on your analysis and the meanings.

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