Seven Short Words With Score Implications, FANBOYS Part 1/7

by on August 24th, 2009

This is the first of a short series of articles on the short list of what are known as coordinating conjunctions, short words themselves that show up very frequently in the GMAT Sentence Correction questions. Learning them can save you time, allowing you to eliminate wrong answer choices quickly and confidently; understanding them will of course also help add style and clarity to your AWA and admissions applications.  These coordinating conjunctions are often remembered by the acronym FANBOYS (For, And, Nor, But, Or, Yet, So); their job in a sentence is joining two or more parallel  . . . well, things in a sentence.

  1. These words can join single words (Would you like a piece of cake or pie?);
  2. whole phrases (He plans to clean the house today and buy groceries by the end of the week);
  3. or entire independent clauses — things that would stand alone as complete sentences without the conjunction (I would love to try the peaches, but the fuzz gives me the chills).

The things these conjunctions connect must be the same type of thing — an adverb and another adverb, a noun and a noun, an independent clause with another independent clause.  Just as you can only add fractions when they have the same denominator, you can only use parallel parts with coordinating conjunctions.  All of these coordinating conjunctions also have at least one other job in English.


The first of the FANBOYS, for, is most commonly used as a preposition; it is in this way that you will see almost certainly see it on the GMAT, usually expressing direction, purpose, support, length of time or distance, or when something is done on another’s behalf.

  • Direction: As soon as I left work, I headed for the bus depot.
  • Purpose: She took that job for the large employee discount.
  • Support: I voted for the candidate with the funniest advertisements.
  • Length of time/distance: They hiked for five miles and then camped for three days.
  • Behalf: He painted the kitchen for her while she was in the hospital.

When you use the preposition for with any type of pronoun as the object of that preposition, remember that you need to use the objective case of that pronoun (me rather than I, her rather than she); this is a possible source of incorrect answer choices in Sentence Correction, and a place where using everyday spoken English as your guide will lead you astray:

For whom did you make this delicious-looking pizza?
I made it for him, of course.

A GMAT-style question, for illustration:

Even after a great deal of editing, the final report, a summary of which projects the department had just started last year and who they’d done them for, would have been over a thousand pages long if anyone had felt the need to print it out on paper.

A.  a summary of which projects the department had just started last year and who they’d done them for

B.  which summarized the projects that the department was just starting and which had been done for whom last year,

C.  a summary of which projects the department had just started last year and for whom they’d done them,

D.  being a summary of last year’s department projects and who they’d done them for,

E.  which summarized who the department worked for when just starting and what it was working on,

The use of for as an actual coordinating conjunction is less common than the use of most of the others, because it is only used in clauses giving the reason for what was stated in the first part of the sentence:

I am invulnerable, for I have bathed in the blood of a mighty dragon!
They decided not to perform that night, for most of the crowd had already gone home to avoid the storm.

This use of for has a somewhat archaic and formal sound to it, and should not be used at the start of a sentence . . . in fact, there’s no reason for you to use it at all when because is less restrictive and in common use.

In the next article we will cover:  And.

Read other articles in this series:


  • Nice article and series...

    What's the answer of the example given in the article?

  • All the ones with "for . . . who" are wrong, of course; when "who" is the object of a preposition (like "for"), the form is "whom."

    Choice B has "and which" referring ambiguously to "report" or "projects."

    My intention was to make C the correct answer and the others demonstrably wrong . . . let me know if you disagree.

  • i agree with your answer.Very nice article

  • Looking forward to all articles in this series. must complement I liked the articles by Grockit. :)

  • Good One. I am using FANBOYS. In short, as soon as you see FANBOYS looks for parallel structure or comparison.

  • good one...all grockit one's are outstanding...request u to give the full version of FANBOYS

  • That really would be cruel, releasing part one and not doing the rest. The other FANBOYS are definitely coming to Beat The GMAT!

  • I say C

  • I believe B is the right answer.

    I see one error with C

    "had" (i.e. "had just started" and "they’d done them"), is used twice in perfect past verb tense without a verb in past tense.

    When it comes to B
    "which summarized the projects that the department was just starting and which had been done for whom last year,"

    both "which" follow parallel structure - the report which summarized and the report which had been done (before it summarized). Also. although "had been done for whom last year" sounds very funky but replacing "him" with "whom" sounds fine, and i've come across some very arcane usage of the word "whom", so I would choose B as the correct answer.

  • Hi! When is the article on yet be available online? Looking forward to it. Thanks!

Ask a Question or Leave a Reply

The author Jim Jacobson gets email notifications for all questions or replies to this post.

Some HTML allowed. Keep your comments above the belt or risk having them deleted. Signup for a Gravatar to have your pictures show up by your comment.