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Notwithstanding the argument that the very idea is a false construct - why are the conjunctions 'as' and 'because' never included as FANBOYS i.e. as ways to form a compound sentence from two simple sentences?

What is the difference between, say:

  • I was late for work. The bus broke down.
  • I was late for work, for the bus broke down.
  • I was late for work, because the bus broke down.

Or, similarly:

  • I visit the library every week. I love reading.
  • I visit the library every week, for I love reading.
  • I visit the library every week, as I love reading.

Surely, in either case, the use of 'as or 'because' would be a less  stiff/archaic word choice?

 

Original Post
@JohnG posted:

Notwithstanding the argument that the very idea is a false construct - why are the conjunctions 'as' and 'because' never included as FANBOYS i.e. as ways to form a compound sentence from two simple sentences?

Hello, JohnG, and welcome to the Grammar Exchange.

FANBOYS is an acronym for seven coordinating conjunctions:

for
and
nor
but
or
yet
so

Coordinating conjunctions introduce independent clauses. Independent clauses are clauses that can stand alone as sentences.

"As" and "because" are subordinating conjunctions, not coordinating conjunctions. "As"- and "because"-clauses cannot stand alone as sentences.

Thus, "as" and "because" are not included in FANBOYS because (a) neither word is referred to in the acronym and (b) they are not words of the right type.

Last edited by David, Moderator

I am not a fan of FANBOYS -- at least, I hate the way it is stated as a hard and fast rule.  I am far from a grammar expert, but there are several reasons I dislike the acronym and the way it is taught.

The problem, from my point of view, is that FANBOYS is given as a list with little explanation for how the list was formed (or how the list isn't perfect.)

As for examples of why FANBOYS isn't perfect, I am not an expert, so I will defer in part to someone who is:  Bas Aarts, professor of English Linguistics at UCL and author of the Oxford Modern English Grammar and the Oxford Dictionary of English Grammar.  You can read his post on the matter here: https://grammarianism.wordpres.../2019/10/07/fanboys/

He gives some excellent insight there as to how one might go about classifying conjunctions.  For instance, he points out in favor of classifying 'for' as a coordinating conjunction, that you can’t link clauses introduced by for, whereas this is perfectly possible for two clauses introduced by typical subordinating conjunctions

  • I like chocolate, [because it is yummy] and [because it is sweet].
  • I like chocolate [for it is yummy] and [for it is sweet].

 

But, on the contrary, he also points out that, like a subordinating conjunction, you cannot leave out the subject when for is followed by a clause:

  • He liked the conference, and was treated as royalty.
  • He liked the conference, for was treated as royalty.

 

When I was researching FANBOYS for myself, I looked up some grammar books from the early 1900s.  I found that the lists of subordinating and coordinating conjunctions in those early grammar books did not match the lists of today.  In many of these early grammar books only 'and', 'or', and 'nor' appeared as coordinating conjunctions, although there was little consistency.  I think the reason for this is that different grammarians have different ideas about how to classify conjunctions:  Some grammarians, probably the more modern ones,  base their decision on the potential applications of the word, as seen above.  I think earlier ideas may have been less formal, merely asking if the conjunction is used to join semantically equivalent things.  I think of it like a manager and his subordinates: does one clause "work" for the other?  If I say:

I like pizza, and I use pencils.  I read books, wash cars, and sing.

I don't like pizza, nor do I use pencils.  I don't read books, wash cars, nor do I sing.

I like pizza or I use pencils.  I read books, wash cars, or sing.

These might be silly things to pair up, but the point is that in none of these sentences does one clause depends on another.  My enjoyment of pencils does not impact my enjoyment of pizza.  I have no problem with any of these words being called coordinating conjunctions.

I don't like pizza, but I use pencils.

 I like pizza, for I use pencils.

I like pizza, so I use pencils.

I like pizza, yet I use pencils.

Suddenly, one clause exists to help the other.  To me, this screams out, "subordination!" in the simple usage of the word.  Another example is that there are several other words that are synonyms of 'yet' and 'but' --- 'however', 'nevertheless', 'still'... why aren't these on the FANBOYS list?  The answer would appear to lies in the applicable usage of these words:

(OK) He disliked like the conference, yet was treated as royalty.

(X) He disliked like the conference, however was treated as royalty.

(X) He disliked like the conference, nevertheless was treated as royalty.

So, in the end, it would appear there is no really great sure-fire way to classify every single conjunction.  You have to choose a side and go with it.  Modern grammarians seem to have decided to go the path of Aarts and base their choice on potential usage rather than the idea of subordination.  That's probably better for computerized grammar analysis and explaining how to use the words properly in a sentence, but it does seem to leave the original intent a bit out in the cold.  That's fine, but it also puts 'for' in an ambiguous position.

Anyway, the point is, trying to classify the conjunctions based solely upon meaning is hopeless if you are trying to understand modern grammar's FANBOYS list.  Likewise, the etymology of 'subordinating' isn't very helpful, even though the idea of subordination is frequently taught to students.

Last edited by cwm9

FANBOYS is not a concept of advanced linguistic grammar. What I said in my first post should not be interpreted to imply that I analyze all seven of the words signified by the acronym as coordinating conjunctions. Indeed, in formal syntax, only "and" and "or" tend to be analyzed as coordinating conjunctions.

The acronym is but a useful pedagogical device for teaching learners how to avoid writing run-on sentences and sentence fragments as well as how to punctuate sentences according to punctuation conventions used in contemporary English.

FANBOYS stands for the words used in English (apart from conjunctive adverbs and transitional phrases) to introduce independent clauses, i.e. clauses which can stand alone as sentences. "For I love reading" can stand alone as a sentence. "As I love reading" and "Because I love reading" are fragments.

That's the basic idea. FANBOYS has no role in advanced grammar discussions.

Last edited by David, Moderator

Thanks for the replies. As I thought, the very idea of using FANBOYS as tool for teaching grammar is clearly a false construct.

However, I guess the heart of my question is really this - as an unschooled onlooker in the field of grammar, the principle use of the acronym FANBOYS, seems to me, to be in providing budding writers of English with an alternative to the semi-colon; that is, in joining two, closely related, independent clauses together, to form a compound sentence. By so doing, the learner is then free of any risk associated with producing a 'run on sentence' or a 'comma splice', and able to take their place in society, as a useful citizen.

If, on some basic level, this idea might be considered as having merit, then why can't the words 'as' and 'because' perform the same function - regardless of whatever sub-class of words they might belong to?

So, again if we look at the sentences:

  • I visit the library every week I love reading. (run on sentence).
  • I visit the library every week, I love reading (comma splice)
  • I visit the library every week, for I love reading.
  • I visit the library every week, as I love reading.

I can see, quite clearly, why the first two sentences would make a grammarian wince, but why the last one? To me, the word 'as' and the word 'for'  are interchangeable  - i.e. both represent the phrase 'owing to the fact that.'  

Or, am I missing something? (which, as a child of the seventies, abandoned to a grammar-free English education by the first wave of postmodern educationalists, wouldn't surprise me, at all) 

Last edited by JohnG
@JohnG posted:

. . . the principle use of the acronym FANBOYS, seems to me, to be in providing budding writers of English with an alternative to the semi-colon; that is, in joining two, closely related, independent clauses together, to form a compound sentence. By so doing, the learner is then free of any risk associated with producing a 'run on sentence' or a 'comma splice', and able to take their place in society, as a useful citizen.

Hello again, John—You're on the right track in your thinking here, but a little off the mark. Most budding writers of English don't need an alternative to the semicolon, since most budding writers of English have no idea how to use a semicolon in the first place. It's the least common punctuation mark.

What budding writers of English do need is the ability to differentiate between dependent and independent clauses. As you know, in conversation, we often hear utterances beginning with 'Cuz/Because (along with other subordinating conjunctions):

A: Why did you do that?
B: Because I wanted to.

A: When did you go there?
B: Before you got up.

Because such sentences are heard and used every day by English speakers everywhere, it is natural for the budding writer with little knowledge of the grammar of the language he speaks to assume that a sentence can be realized by a "because"-clause, a "when"-clause, a "before"-clause, etc.

I say "to assume that a sentence can be realized by . . ." rather than "to assume that a sentence can begin with . . ." because, of course, sentences can indeed begin with such words (the paragraph immediately above is an example of this); however, that does not mean that a sentence can be realized by such clauses.

The lesson that the FANBOYS words are used to introduce independent clauses is typically accompanied by lessons about the difference between independent and dependent clauses and between FANBOYS and words used to introduce dependent clauses (because, before, when, etc.).

Notice that I am now avoiding the use of the terms "coordinating conjunction" and "subordinating conjunction," knowing that I am in dialogue with people who will not wish to say that a word belongs to either class unless it fulfills strict criteria (criteria which go well beyond what budding writers know about).

The only criterion of importance here, insofar as the pedagogical application of FANBOYS is concerned, is that some words (FANBOYS) are used to introduce independent clauses, and others (usually called "subordinating conjunctions") are used to introduce dependent clauses.

From there we can talk about such matters as comma placement (e.g., a comma should come before FANBOYS clauses attached to preceding independent clauses, unless those clauses are very short) and avoidance of sentence fragments (e.g., a "because"-clause needs to be attached to a main clause).

@JohnG posted:
If, on some basic level, this idea might be considered as having merit, then why can't the words 'as' and 'because' perform the same function - regardless of whatever sub-class of words they might belong to?

The FANBOYS words can be used to introduce independent clauses. Subordinating conjunctions like "as" and "because" cannot.

@JohnG posted:
So, again if we look at the sentences:
  • I visit the library every week I love reading. (run on sentence).
  • I visit the library every week, I love reading (comma splice)
  • I visit the library every week, for I love reading.
  • I visit the library every week, as I love reading.

I can see, quite clearly, why the first two sentences would make a grammarian wince, but why the last one? To me, the word 'as' and the word 'for'  are interchangeable  - i.e. both represent the phrase 'owing to the fact that.' 

Your third and fourth examples there are both correct. In the third, "for I love reading" is an independent clause, not a dependent clause. In the fourth, "as I love reading" is a dependent clause, not an independent clause. This distinction applies whether or not we analyze "for" as a coordinating conjunction.

Only in the third example, however, could the clause following the comma be written as a separate sentence. The fact that both the third and the fourth sentence have the same meaning does not matter from the standpoint of punctuation and clausal (in)dependence.

Last edited by David, Moderator

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