Now that you've finished reading Cohesion (Part 1) a hundred times, it's time to learn more! In this post we deal with the words that connect our words, sentences, and ideas together. These have many names depending on the book or person you're dealing with, so don't worry too much about what to call them; just make sure you understand how to use the different types. Today, we'll call them all 'linking words' then break them into other categories.
A phrase is a group of words. Because many linking words contain more than one word, it's more accurate to call them phrases; however, using the plural 'words' has the same meaning in a way and is more familiar to a lot of students.
Are linking words the same in speaking and writing?
To some extent, yes... Cohesion is extremely important in English as we saw in the previous post on cohesion. In speaking, the linking words used can be a little more informal and nontraditional, whereas in academic writing, traditional rules are observed. In other writing it depends on the author's style as to how carefully they follow traditional grammar rules. Here, we'll focus on academic style (writing) and you can use all of these linking words in speaking, too.
Are there any other ways to connect things?
Of course, but we dealt with those previously in Cohesion (Part 1). To refresh your memory, it covered determiners, pronouns, and using synonyms or vocabulary to create a sense of flow, or good connection in our writing and speaking. If you don't get the joke below, maybe you need to re-read it!
Good for you! If you understand how to use them to create compound and complex sentences, you're probably ok, but if you're not sure how to use them all in sentences, read on.
Before we go any further, we need to understand 'clauses'. If you haven't already watched the video on sentence structure, you might like to now but here's a quick summary.
One way to think of a clause in English is a subject plus a predicate.
Clause = subject + predicate (see picture below)
There are two types of clauses in traditional grammar. These are similar to people in a way. How so? Well, what do we call people who are happy living by themselves, and can cook and clean for themselves? Independent! And what do we call people like babies that cannot do anything for themselves and aren't happy alone? Dependent!
Clauses are exactly the same. Happy by itself? You've got an independent clause. Not happy alone and needs something else to be complete? Dependent clause. Let's look at an example:
I am happy = this is a complete thought; therefore, it's an independent clause.
Because I am happy = this isn't complete anymore. When I added 'because', it made the clause need something more to be finished.
To finish a dependent clause, you just add another independent clause. For instance,
Because I am happy, I am smiling. / Because I am happy, I sleep well.
How is a dependent clause made?
As you probably guessed, a dependent clause is created when we use a special type of linking word called a subordinating conjunction. You can see an example in the picture below. More about those later! For now, let's keep looking at independent clauses.
Is an independent clause a sentence? Technically, no. Why not? Because a sentence in English needs three things:
- to be a complete thought
- to have a capital letter at the start
- to have punctuation at the end (usually in academic English, it's a full stop)
So, I am happy is technically not a sentence, but it's got the first two characteristics of a sentence. That means if we add a full stop, it becomes a sentence: I am happy. We talk about clauses and not sentences with linking words, mainly because one sentence may have several clauses. Now that we know what independent clauses are, we can talk about the linking words we use with them.
First up are conjunctive adverbs. Other names for these? Discourse markers, transition signals, signal language, sign posting, adverbial conjunctions... the list goes on! All you need to remember is that you should be using them a lot in academic writing, and they usually join separate sentences. They can often go in many positions in the sentence, but if you're not sure, you can always put one at the beginning of a sentence you're joining to another one. Here's an example of the same sentence with the conjunctive adverb in different places.
- Numerous studies have reported sweet drinks are safe. However, this is clearly wrong.
- Numerous studies have reported sweet drinks are safe. This is clearly wrong, however.
- Numerous studies have reported sweet drinks are safe. This, however, is clearly wrong.
- Numerous studies have reported sweet drinks are safe; however, this is clearly wrong.
Notice anything about punctuation with conjunctive adverbs? That's right! They usually have a comma after them. There are a couple of other rules for their use.
- If they're in the middle of a clause, put commas on each side of the word (except in very short clauses).
- They are not strong enough to join clauses, so make sure you're joining separate sentences. This means you should see a full stop or semi-colon (;) before the clause you add a conjunctive adverb to.
- I am hungry. Therefore, I'm going to get something to eat.
- National leaders need to deal with many complex issues; in other words, they have to be able to face different types of challenges.
- Firstly, there needs to be a survey done. After this, we will need to compile the results. Finally, we'll put together a report.
Here's a list of the most common ones with their functions. How many have you used?
Let's turn to our next type of linking words: conjunctions. What does conjunction mean? Con means together and junction is from the Latin 'jungere', meaning join. Therefore, these join things like nouns and clauses together, traditionally inside one sentence. Why did I mention 'traditionally'? Because you've probably seen them used a lot in an informal way, which is different to academic writing. There are three main types of conjunctions:
Otherwise known as FANBOYS, these join two independent clauses that are equal in importance to make one sentence. They can also join equal noun phrases or other phrases. You can keep adding FANBOYS in a sentence if you want; each time you add one, you can add another clause. However, remember we like shorter sentences in English, so this isn't common. Why are they called FANBOYS? To help you remember them, of course! See the picture below.
With these linking words, you don't need to repeat the subjects or main verbs of the clauses in the second clause if they are the same. In fact, it's probably better not to, because we avoid unnecessary repetition in English and value directness. For example, you can see in the second sentence in the example below, 'it' is optional.
Our next type of conjunctions are similar to FANBOYS in that they can join equal things in one sentence. These things can again be words, phrases, or clauses. Correlative conjunctions are also called 'paired' conjunctions because they are used in pairs. Do you know them all? Check below!
Remember earlier we looked at dependent clauses? They are clauses that aren't happy by themselves and they're created when you use this special type of linking word, subordinating conjunctions. These are a type of 'subordinator', which creates 'subordinate' (dependent) clauses. Why this word? 'Sub' is from Latin, meaning under and 'ordinate' is from Latin meaning order. This name can help you remember how we have a clause that is less strong or dependent, which needs to be put with another clause that is more strong or 'independent.
Like the FANBOYS, subordinating conjunctions have functions like showing contrast, addition, and cause-effect. Have a look at the list below and think about your writing and speaking. Are you using them all?
Coordinating conjunction (FANBOYS)
✓ She was small but she was very strong.
x But she was very strong, she was small.
✓ She was small. However, she was very strong.
x However, she was very strong. She was small.
✓ Although she was small, she was very strong.
✓ She was very strong although she was small.
As you can see from the example already, the sentence structure when using a subordinator is simple. Just put the linking word before one clause, and add another clause to complete your sentence. When you start with the linking word, use a comma to separate the clauses. If the linking word is in the middle, it is separating the clauses so you don't need a comma. The diagram below shows this structure.
Yes, there are other types of linking words that create dependent clauses or phrases, but we'll look at those another day.
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