Conjunctions: Coordinating


Did you know that Whitney Houston’s favourite coordination is hand-eyeeeee? No? It’s still alright, because we will be looking at coordinating today. What are they?

Put simply, coordinating conjunctions are conjunctions that are placed between words, phrases, clauses, or sentences of equal rank in terms of syntactic importance. What is equal rank? Equal rank in the most basic sense means that the both parts are independent of each other, so that the meaning of one does not depend on the other. Now, what “meaning” means here is not super important to know, however. Meaning simply means that the sentences or parts are not dependent on each other, so to say.

Note that not all conjugations can be neatly categorized into this type or another. I am basing my categories on a variety of factors, but the important thing in the end is to know how something is used, rather than what kind of something it is.


चिया (ciyā)Tea
बाझ्नु (bājhnu)To quarrel
जन्मदिन (janmadin)Birthday
बधाई दिनु (badhāī dinu)To congratulate (lit. to give congratulations)
बिरामी (birāmī)Sick
यस्तो-उस्तो (yasto-usto)This and that (idiomatic, usto usually only appears as part of the pair)
धर्म (dharma)1. Righteousness | 2. Religion
दान (dān)Giving; Donation
सेवा (sewā)Service
दूतावास (dutāvās)Embassy
राहदानी (rāhadānī)Passport
नागरिकता (nāgariktā)Citizenship (ID)


र (ra) is what we call “and” in English. It is a very straight-forward conjunction, but is widely used as it joins together sentences, clauses, subjects and other parts together. र (ra) is also a particle, but we will explore that later. र (ra) can be used to join sentences:

ऊ सुत्यो र उठ्यो (ū sutyo ra uṭhyo)
= He slept and woke up.
[he + verb + and + verb

Like in English, the repeating subject is omitted. The above sentence is generally understood as:

ऊ सुत्यो + ऊ उठ्यो (ū sutyo + ū uṭhyo)
= He slept. He woke up.

However, when we use र (ra), the second subject is omitted (if it is the same as the first sentence). र (ra) can be used to join items in a list as well:

चियासित बिस्कुट र केक मिठो हुन्छ (ciyā-sita biskuṭ ra kek miṭho huncha)
Cake and biscuit(s) are tasty with tea
[tea (+) with + biscuit + and + cake + tasty + is]

Note how the verb is singular in Nepali. Nepali often does not employ plural case when the subjects are inanimate objects (vs. human animates). One more sentence:

किन कुकुर र बिरालो जस्तै बाझ्छौ ? (kina kukur ra birālo jastai bājhchau)
= Why (do you) fight like dog(s) and cat(s)
[why dog + and + cat + like + fight]

तथा (tathā) is a more formal way of saying र (ra). You will usually find this in formal textbooks or formal speech.


तर (tara) corresponds to “but” or “however” in English. Like र (ra), तर (tara) can be used to join sentences:

ऊ सुत्यो तर ऊ उठेन (ū sutyo tara ū uṭhena)
= He slept but he didn’t wake up
[he + verb + but + he + verb]

That was a bit ominous. The repeating subject can be omitted, but you can often keep it. 

हिजो मेरो जन्मदिन थियो तर कसैले मलाई बधाई दिएनन् (hijo mero janmadin thiyo tara kasaile ma-lāī badhāī dienan)
= Yesterday was my birthday however no one congratulated [wished] me
[yesterday + my + birthday + was + however + no one + me + congratulation(s) + verb]

तर (tara) and पनि (pani) are often combined to mean “but still”:

म त बिरामी छु तर पनि काम गर्नैपर्छ (ma ta birāmī chu tara pani kāma garnaiparcha)
= I am sick but still (I) must work
[I + emphasis particle + sick + copula + but + still + work + verb]


अनि (ani) also means “and” or “so”, but in this capacity it is closer in meaning to “and then”. अनि (ani) is used to show that an event or an action follows another event or an action:

ऊ घर गयो अनि भात पकायो (ū ghar gayo ani bhāt pakāyo)
= He went home and then (he) cooked rice
[he + house + went + and then + rice + cooked]
म यस्तो गर्छु अनि उस्तो गर्छु  (ma yasto garchu ani usto garchu)
= I’ll do this and that
[I + this + do + and + that + do]
अनि तिम्रो नाम के हो ? (ani timro nām ke ho)
So what is your name?
[so + your + name + what + is]

Note that when अनि (ani) is used as “so”, the meaning has to be closer to “and then”:

अनि तिमीलाई के भयो ? (ani timī-lāī ke bhayo)
= So/And then what happened to you?
[so + you (+) dative case marker + what + verb]

अनि (ani) is also a filler word when speaking with people, in order to prompt the speaker to continue speaking. In this capacity, अनि (ani) could mean “and”, “go on”, “yeah”, “uh huh” etc:

A: हिजो पानी पर्दै थियो … (hijo pānī pardai thiyo)
B: अनि … (ani
A: अनि एउटा गाडी आयो … (ani euṭā gāḍī āyo)
B: अनि … (ani)
= A: It was raining yesterday…
B: And then
A: And then a car came…
B: Go on


कि (ki), वा () and या () are three conjunctions with the very similar meaning of “or”. You are usually providing multiple options or choices to the listener or reader. Although they have great overlap and you can usually exchange one for the other, the way you can use them slightly differs, however.

The most straightforward of these three, and perhaps the most common, is कि (ki). It is usually used to string together two or more alternatives, and is slightly less formal than the other two:

तिमीलाई पोखरा कि काठमाडौं मन पर्छ? (timī-lāī pokharā ki kāṭhmāḍauṃ man parcha)
= (Do) you like Pokhara or Kathmandu?
[you (+) dative marker + Pokhara + or + Kathmandu + verb]

कि (ki) is used when you have two differing subjects, and you want to focus on one. Meanwhile, या () is also used to present two or more alternatives, but you can also use it to introduce a synonym to the previous term:

धर्म भनेको दान या सेवा हो (dharma bhaneko dān yā sewā ho)
= Dharma is giving or service
[Dharma + means + giving + or + service + copula]

कि (ki) is preferred when formulating questions, while या () is preferred when making a statement regarding two or more choices. In this sense, या () has the meaning of “either”.

वा () in some sense functions both like कि (ki) and या (). Note that the sentence below is a statement, so या () is preferred:

तिमी राम्रो वा/या नराम्रो भए पनि … (timī rāmro wā/yā narāmro bhae pani)
= Even though you (may be) good or bad…
[you + good + or + bad + even though]
तँ आउँछस् वा/कि घरमा नै बस्छस् ? (ta~ āu~chas wā/ki ghar-mā nai baschas)
= (Are) you (going to) come or (are you going to) stay at home?
[you + come + or + house (+) locative case marker + particle + stay]

Overall, they remain pretty synonymous and you can theoretically use कि (ki) for everything. Here is a statement where you could use any of the three:

दूतावास आउनुभन्दा अगाडि राहदानी कि/वा/या नागरिकता बोक्नुहोस् (dūtāvās āunu-bhandā agāḍi rāhadānī ki/wā/yā nāgariktā boknuhos)
= Before coming (to the) embassy, (please) carry (your) passport or citizenship (ID)
[embassy + coming (gerund) (+) postposition + before + passport + or + citizenship + verb]

Note that the above sentence requires a postposition भन्दा (bhandā) to indicate a separation required between a task (having some ID) from an event (visiting the embassy). 

अथवा (athawā) is a more formal way of all these three.


  • Coordinating conjunctions are conjunctions that are placed between words, phrases, clauses, or sentences of equal rank in terms of syntactic importance.
  • र (ra) is used like “and” and is used to join two or more parts.
  • तर (tara) corresponds to “but” or “however” in English.
  • तर (tara) and पनि (pani) are often combined to mean “but still”.
  • अनि (ani) also means “and” or “so”, but in this capacity it is closer in meaning to “and then”.
  • कि (ki), वा () and या () are three conjunctions with the very similar meaning of “or”. 

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