Latvian Conjunctions


Introduction to Conjunctions

A conjunction (saiklis) can be defined as a part of speech that connects (i.e. "conjoins") parts of a sentence. Here are some example sentences in Latvian, where the conjunctions are shown in blue, the nouns are in olive green, adverbs are purple, and the verbs are orange:
  1. Grāmatas un veļa gulēja visur. 'Books and laundry lay everywhere'.
  2. Anna zvejo, bet Roberts lasa. 'Anna is fishing, but Robert is reading'.
  3. Anna domā, ka Roberts lasa. 'Anna thinks that Robert is reading'.
Conjunctions are invariant particles. In other words (unlike Latvian nouns, verbs, or adjectives), conjunctions do not have multiple forms: they always have the same form.

Simple vs. Complex Conjunctions

In terms of form, conjunctions can be classified into two groups: simple conjunctions (vienkārši saikļi) or complex conjunctions (salikti saikļi).

Simple Conjunctions:

Simple conjunctions consist of only a single word; here are some examples:

arī 'also', bet 'but', ja 'if', jeb 'or', jo 'because', ka 'that', kamēr 'while', kolīdz 'as soon as', lai 'so that', nedz 'not, nor', nekā 'than', taču 'however, yet', tomēr 'still, yet', tikko 'hardly, scarcely', turpretī(m) 'whereas, on the other hand', un 'and', vai 'whether', etc.

Here are a couple of example sentences which contain simple conjunctions; the conjunctions are shown in blue, the nouns are in olive green, the adjectives are dark red, the adverbs are purple, and the verbs are orange:

  1. Rita ir garāka nekā Roberts. 'Rita is taller than Robert'.
  2. Anna runāja skaļi, lai Ivars dzirdētu. 'Anna spoke loudly, so that Ivar would hear'.

Complex Conjunctions:

Complex conjunctions consist of more than one word; for example: kaut gan 'although', lai gan 'though, although', tā kā 'since', tāpēc ka 'for, because', etc.

Here are a few more example sentences, that contain complex conjunctions; the conjunctions are shown in blue, the nouns are in olive green, the adjectives are dark red, the adverbs are purple, and the main verbs are orange:

  1. Hermanis ir noskumis tāpēc ka Rita nav šeit. 'Herman is sad because Rita isn't here'.
  2. Tā kā Anna neprot dejot, Maija dejos rītvakar. 'Since Anna can't dance, May will dance tomorrow evening'.

Two-part Conjunctions and Repeated Conjunctions:

In the category of complex conjunctions we also include two-part conjunctions (pāru saikļi), such as ne vien . . . bet arī 'not only . . . but also', nevis . . . bet 'not . . . but', tiklab . . . kā arī 'both . . . and', as well as repeated conjunctions (atkārtotie saikļi), such as: gan . . . gan 'both . . . and; now . . . now', ir . . . ir 'both . . . and', ne . . . ne 'neither . . . nor', etc.

Here are a few more example sentences, that contain complex conjunctions; the conjunctions are shown in blue, the nouns are in olive green, the adjectives are dark red, the adverbs are purple, and the main verbs are orange:

  1. Nevis Anita bet Rita ir mana māsa. 'Not Anita, but Rita is my sister'.
  2. Ne tikai Maija prot dejot, bet arī Ivars. 'Not only May can dance, but also Ivar'.
  3. Ir zābaki ir kurpes trūka. 'Both boots and shoes were lacking'.
  4. Hermanis neprot ne lasīt ne rakstīt. 'Herman knows neither (how) to read nor (how) to write'.
Sentences 1 & 2 contain two-part conjunctions; sentences 3 & 4 contain repeated conjunctions.

Co-ordinating vs. Subordinating Conjunctions

If conjunctions are classified according to their function, we can group them into two different categories: co-ordinating conjunctions (sakārtojuma saikļi) and subordinating conjunctions (pakārtojuma saikļi).

Co-ordinating Conjunctions:

Co-ordinating conjunctions can be defined as conjunctions that link together two (or more) elements (i.e. words, phrases, or sentences) of the same type. In each of the following examples, the conjunction is shown in blue, and the two conjoined elements in green:

Conjunction Elements conjoined Example sentence Translation
bet 'but' Adjectives Hermanis ir liels bet veikls. Herman is big but agile.
jeb 'or' Nouns Vārds «galds» ir substantīvs jeb lietvārds. The word "table" is a substantive, or noun.
gan . . . gan
'not only . . . but also'
Noun phrases
(i.e. adjective + noun)
Gan mazie skolēni, gan lielie studenti grib pārmaiņas. Not only the young pupils, but also the older students want changes.
un 'and' Verbs Anita skatijās un klausijās. Anita watched and listened.
un 'and' Verb phrases
(i.e. verb + direct object noun)
Rīt Ilga rakstīs vēstules un mazgās veļu. Tomorrow Ilga is going to write letters and wash the laundry.
nedz 'nor' Sentences
(i.e. clauses)
Raimonds tur nebija, nedz arī grib tur iet. Raymond wasn't there, nor does he want to go there.

Here is a list of some of the more common co-ordinating conjunctions in Latvian:

arī 'also', bet 'but', bet tomēr 'nevertheless, drīz . . . drīz 'at one moment . . . at another', gan . . . gan 'both . . . and; now . . . now', ir . . . ir 'both . . . and', jeb 'or', kā . . . tā arī 'as well as', ne . . . ne 'neither . . . nor', ne tikvien . . . bet arī 'not only . . . but also', ne vien . . . bet arī 'not only . . . but also', nedz 'not, nor', nekā 'than', nevis . . . bet 'not . . . but', taču 'however, yet', te . . . te 'now . . . now', tiklab . . . kā arī 'both . . . and', tomēr 'still, yet', turpretī(m) 'whereas, on the other hand', un 'and', vai 'whether', vai . . . vai 'either . . . or', vai nu . . . vai arī 'either . . . or', etc.

Subordinating Conjunctions:

A subordinating conjunction can be defined as a conjunction which joins a subordinate (or dependent) clause to a main clause. What do we mean by the terms "subordinate clause" and "main clause"?

  1. Robert is sick now.
  2. Robert ate some bad nuts.
Each of these (simple) sentences can stand by itself. However, they can also be joined together to form more complex sentences:

  1. Robert is sick now because he ate some bad nuts.
  2. Robert ate some bad nuts, so now he is sick.
  3. Because Robert ate some bad nuts, he is sick now.
  4. Since he ate some bad nuts, Robert is sick now.
Each of these complex sentences consists of two clauses: a main clause, and a subordinate clause. Here are the same sentences again, with the main clauses in dark red, and the subordinate clauses in dark blue:
  1. Robert is sick now because he ate some bad nuts.
  2. Robert ate some bad nuts, so now he is sick.
  3. Because Robert ate some bad nuts, he is sick now.
  4. Since he ate some bad nuts, Robert is sick now.
In each of these cases the main clause could stand alone as an independent sentence ("Robert is sick.", "Robert ate some bad nuts", etc.), but the subordinate clauses sound incomplete: ". . . because he ate some bad nuts.", " . . . so now he is sick.".

In addition, each of these subordinate clauses is introduced by a conjunction (i.e. a subordinate conjunction). Here are some example sentences from Latvian, with the main clauses in dark red, and the subordinate clauses in dark blue:

  1. Roberts ir slims, jo viņš ieēda sliktus riekstus. 'Robert is sick, since he ate (some) bad nuts.'
  2. Raimonds nopirka siltu cepuri, lai Anitai nesaltu galva. 'Raymond bought a warm hat so that Anita's head wouldn't be cold.'
  3. Kamēr Anita lasija puķes, Maija raveja nezāles. 'While Anita gathered flowers, May pulled weeds.
  4. Tikko Hermanis izgāja no mājas, Ilga sāka krāsot. 'As soon as Herman left the house, Ilga started to paint.'
Here is a list of some of the more common subordinating conjunctions in Latvian:

iekams 'before', ja 'if', jo 'because', ka 'that', kamēr 'while', kaut arī 'even though', kolīdz 'as soon as', kopš '(ever) since', lai 'so that', lai gan 'even though', līdzko 'as soon as', pirms 'before', tādēļ ka 'because', tā kā 'since', tāpēc ka 'because', tiklīdz 'as soon as', etc.


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This page created and maintained by
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Last revised September 17, 2008