9 Coordinating Conjunctions in Spanish Essential to Know
Asking, “Do I need to learn coordinating conjunctions in Spanish? Is it absolutely necessary?” is like asking if you need to eat to live.
Of course you do!
Coordinating conjunctions are essential for making yourself understood.
The truth is, sentences without coordinating conjunctions make no sense.
Do you know why?
Keep reading to find out!
In this blog post, I’ll explain what coordinating conjunctions are and cover 9 essential types. You’ll not only learn these types of coordinating conjunctions, but also how to use them in order to sound like a native speaker.
At the end of this post, I’ve provided an optional set of exercises with which you can check your understanding—and the best part? There’s a way you can practice these coordinating conjunctions with a native speaker without spending any money.
Ready to conquer coordinating conjunctions in Spanish?
What Are Conjunctions and Why Do We Need Them?
“Are you a dog or a cat person? Because I like cats and dogs exactly the same but now I only have a dog.”
In the sentences above I used 3 different conjunctions. Can you find them?
They are “or,” “and,” and “but.”
What happens if we take them out?
“Are you a dog a cat person? Because I like cats dogs exactly the same. Now I only have a dog.”
It just doesn’t work anymore, does it? The sentences lack clarity in how the words relate to one another.
That’s why we need conjunctions—these are the words that connect separate words or phrases together to create a more precise meaning.
There are two main groups of conjunctions in Spanish:
Today, I’ll tell you about coordinating conjunctions.
Coordinating Conjunctions in Spanish
I’m sure you can guess by the name what’s the function of coordinating conjunctions. They coordinate and join words and phrases. We use them to add information (and), to give an alternative (or), and to express a contrast (but).
Let’s have a look at how it works in Spanish.
1. Coordinating Conjunctions to Express Addition
We use these conjunctions when we want to add some information to what we said. You use them to add words, groups of words, and clauses. There are only three of them in Spanish:
Me gustan las peras y manzanas.
I like pears and apples.
You’ll use the conjunction y to add one word to the other but if the next word starts with the sound /i/ you’ll use the conjunction e instead. It means that the second word needs to start with a letter i or letters hi.
Pedro e Irene son pareja.
Pedro and Irene are a couple.
Los cocodrilos e hipopótamos viven en África.
Crocodiles and hippos live in Africa.
Watch out because some words in Spanish start with letters “hi” but instead of pronouncing them with the sound /i/, they start with the sound /ye/ and in this case, you must use the y conjunction.
Hay mucha nieve y hielo en las escaleras.
There’s a lot of now and ice on the stairs.
Hay que quitar las piedras y hierbas del jardín.
You have to take the stones and weeds from the garden.
You also use the conjunction ni to add elements but the final meaning is negative. For example:
No tengo ganas ni tiempo.
I have no desire or time.
You can also put it in front of all the elements you’re adding.
No tengo ni ganas ni tiempo.
I have neither the desire nor the time.
You can also use these conjunctions to start a sentence.
¿Y por qué te regaló esto?
And why did he give you this?
Y aún puedo decir más.
And I can still say more.
Ni lo pienses.
Don’t even think about it.
2. Coordinating Conjunctions to Give an Alternative
Conjunctions also help to offer an alternative:
¿Qué prefieres café o té?
What do you prefer, coffee or tea?
We use u instead of o when the following words start with the sound /o/. That means that a word may start with a letter o or letters ho.
Tiene siete u ocho años. No me acuerdo bien.
She is seven or eight years old. I don’t remember well.
3. Coordinating Conjunctions to Express Contrast
There are many words and expressions we may use to express contrast but there are only three conjunctions you can use to do it.
Pero and sino are very common but mas is only used in a written form. You’d rather not here anybody saying it loud.
The previous conjunctions we talked about, could join two or more elements. The coordinating conjunctions we use to express contrast can only join two.
Pero implies restriction.
El agua era fría pero no helada.
The water was cold but not frigid.
Mas is a synonym to pero but used only in a written form.
Buscaron en todas partes, mas en vano.
They searched everywhere, but in vain.
Sino expresses incompatibility of each of the two elements so that the second element excludes the first one. The first one will always be negative.
No compraron un auto nuevo, sino uno muy viejo.
They did not buy a new car, but a very old one.
If you join two complete clauses, meaning that both parts will have a verb, sino will transform into sino que.
María no le hizo caso, sino que se gastó todo el dinero en un día.
María didn’t listen to him but spent all the money in one day.
If you feel like reading a bit more about differences between pero and sino, learn What’s the Difference Between Pero and Sino?
As you can see, coordinating conjunctions are very easy and I’m sure you can already use them.
Do you want to try?
Coordinating Conjunction Exercises
Fill in the blanks with y ,e, ni, o, u, pero, mas, and sino.
- No sé si quiero comer pastel _____ helado.
- Manuel compró pollo _____ patatas para la comida.
- No hay suficiente comida _____ bebida para todos tus amigos.
- La sopa está fría _____ buena.
- Hice todo como me dijo el profesor _____ imité sus movimientos.
- No pude encontrar _____ los libro _____ el estuche.
- Eran amigos _____ se pelearon por una chica _____ ahora _____ se pueden ver.
- Dibuja unas hadas _____ otra cosa.
- No discutas, _____ manten la calma.
Click here for the translation of the questions and to see the answers.
Congratulations! You’ve just learned what coordinating conjunctions in Spanish are and how to use them. With this knowledge, your speech will sound much more fluid and native. Good job!
If you’re interested in moving on to subordinating conjunctions to get the whole picture, read The Ultimate Guide to Using ‘And’ in Spanish (and Other Conjunctions).
If you want to take your skills to the next level and polish your conjunctions, sign up for a free class with one of our professional native speakers from Guatemala. You can check your newly acquired skills in real-time and learn other native-like expressions that will improve your Spanish conversations.
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- pero / mas
- ni, ni
- mas/pero, y, ni
- I don’t know if I want to eat cake or ice cream.
- Manuel bought chicken and potatoes for lunch.
- There is not enough food or drink for all your friends.
- The soup is cold but good.
- I did everything as the teacher told me and imitated his movements.
- I couldn’t find the book or the pencil case.
- They were friends but they fought over a girl and now they can’t even see each other.
- Draw some fairies or something else.
- Don’t argue, but stay calm.
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