Coordination generally means the act of making all the people involved in a plan or activity work together in an organised way. In relation to English grammar, it involves the joining of two or more words, phrases or clauses to make the different parts enjoy equal emphasis or prominence.
Two kinds of coordination, namely syndetic and asyndetic coordination, are talked about in English grammar. The syndetic coordination involves the use of coordinating conjunctions (and, or, but) to join the different elements together while the asyndetic coordination is when the coordinating words are not used but can be inferred.
Gradually and carefully, he got to the end of it (syndetic coordination).
Gradually, carefully, he got to the end of it (asyndetic coordination).
It bears mentioning that both kinds of coordination are grammatically allowed in English, although asyndetic coordination is preferred for stylistic and artistic purposes while syndetic coordination is often preferred in formal and official contexts of language use.
Also, the syndetic and asyndetic coordination can be jointly deployed, especially when more than two items are conjoined; but the asyndetic coordination precedes the syndetic coordination:
The major languages in Nigeria are Yoruba, Igbo and Hausa.
In what is left of this article, I am going to discuss the major coordinators and their different functions.
The commonest coordinator is the conjunction “and”. This conjunction is semantically additive. This means that it is used to add a piece of information to another. This function is shown in the sentences below:
We went there together, and we waited till evening.
They didn’t finish early, and I needed to leave immediately.
Aside from the foregoing major function, “and” performs a number of other minor functions. First, it is used to show result; in other words, an indication that one event resulted in another:
He was rude to his dad, and he had to get somewhere else to live (getting somewhere else to live was as a result of being rude to his dad).
The coordinating conjunction “and” is also used to show sequence. The following example sentences show this function:
He made a catchy point, and the audience applauded him (sequence).
She opened the door, and her friend sneaked in (sequence).
One other function of “and” is its use to show condition:
Pay the price and get the prize.
The second coordinator is “but”, and it is essentially used to show contrast. When “but” is used in a sentence, the information provided is contrasted:
Nigeria is a rich country, but corruption has hindered it from prospering.
Most times, the coordinator “but” contrasts two pieces of information where one is positive and the other is negative.
Today may not be rosy, but tomorrow promises greatness.
It should be mentioned that there is no specific order of occurrence for the positive and negative stances. While the negative came first in the example above, the positive expression comes first in the sentence below:
Femi is intelligent, but he is hardly open to correction.
Next to “but” is the coordinator “or”. This coordinator is mainly used to denote alternatives between the information given:
Pay the tuition fees and start classes now or defer the admission for an academic year.
“Or” can also be used to restate an earlier point for clarification:
She loved her husband so much or she probably just thought she did.
Another function that “or” serves is showing consequence; it reveals that an action will necessitate another, as seen in the sentence below:
Let me have your money, or I will take your life (implying that the consequence of not dropping the money is death).
It should be mentioned that some conjunctions are similar to, but different from, the coordinators treated above. These conjunctions can be called semi-coordinators. The commonest example is “with”. The conjunction “with” is not a substitute for “and”. While “and” shows the addition of things of equal grammatical importance, “with” suggests that something is accompanied by another. This is why the first noun or pronoun to be mentioned controls the verb when “with” joins two items in the subject position:
The man and his wife are here (correct).
The man, with his wife, are here (incorrect).
The man, with his wife, is here (correct).
Read also: Sentence linkers in English
Other conjunctions that function like “with” are “together with”, “as well as”, “in association with”, “in company with” (not, “in company of”!) and few others. The first item controls the verb when they join parts of a subject together:
LASU, in association with two other schools, are organising an international conference (incorrect).
LASU, in association with two other schools, is organising an international conference (correct).
The man, as well as his staff, were at the meeting (incorrect).
The man, as well as his staff, was at the meeting (correct).
What is more, take note of the apt usage of the comma alongside these semi-coordinators, as in:
George together with the children is at the amusement park (poor punctuation).
George, together with the children, is at the amusement park (excellent punctuation).
Although coordinators or coordinating conjunctions are not content words, the wrong deployment of them can distort the intended meaning of an utterance/sentence. This piece, therefore, is an eye-opener on how these words should be used.