Coordinating Conjunctions: “So,” FANBOYS Part 7/7

by on November 1st, 2009

This is the last 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 one or two?);
  2. whole phrases (He plans to post to Facebook today and try Twitter at least once 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.

SO

The last of the FANBOYS, so, is quite a word.  In addition to its job as a conjunction, it also can be an adverb, an adjective, an interjection, and even a noun! We’ll cover all of them for the sake of clarity and completeness; the use of so as a conjunction is not as varied as the other FANBOYS, though.  So is used to express purpose or result with two independent clauses:

Purpose:

Your mother went to the store so we can bake cookies tonight.
Write this down so you don’t forget it.

Result:

She didn’t wake up on time, so she was late for work.
You’re not going to pay me, so I’m not going to do any more work.
If the two of you can go without ice cream for a year, so can I.

(note that when so is used for the second half of a conditional sentence, the word order of the subject and verb is reversed, as it would be with a question like “how can I?”)

Whether so (as a coordinating conjunction) is used to express purpose or result, you have just two rules to keep in mind on Test Day:

Rule 1: Things connected by so need to be parallel, and need to be independent clauses
Rule 2: When so is used as the consequence in a conditional statement, word order is changed

For the sake of completeness and to clear up questions you might have on the other uses of so:

Adverb:

(“very”):  If I weren’t so worried about this trip, I would be able to sleep.
(“to that extent”): What took you so long?

*Note that the “extent” version of so does get tested on the GMAT in sentences splitting up “so [adjective] . . . . that [result]” (“He was so tall that he had to duck his head”)!

Adjective:

(a synonym for “true”):  Say it isn’t so!
(“in the aforementioned way/manner”):  We were very excited and nervous about the big game, but so was the other team.

Interjection:

(summarizing, akin to the “result” so):  So, let’s get your suitcase packed for your trip.
(beginning a question):  So, when do you start your MBA program?

As a noun, so is a term from music referring the fifth note of a major scale; it is not likely to appear on the GMAT in this form!

I hope the FANBOYS are a little more familiar to you now!

Read other articles in this series:

1 comment

  • just to clarify--when "so" is used to express purpose, most often if not always, it's an abbreviation of "so that," which is a subordinating conjunction, not a coordinating conjunction. This is why you would not place commas to separate those independent clauses whereas while using "so" to indicate results, you would. 

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