Are you curious about transition words? Want to know how you can use them in your writing? Then you're in the right place. In this article, you'll learn all about transition words and how they can be useful tools for your writing.
This guide is part of our free online Grammar Book.
Transition words, also known as linking words, connecting words, or transitional words, allow your text to flow more smoothly. When you move from one idea to another or express relationships between them, your readers will be able to follow you more effectively if you're using them because everything will be more coherent.
In this article, I'll mostly use the term 'transition words,' but know that they aren't always made up of just one word; sometimes, they can have two or more words, in which case they are technically transition phrases. I'll also underline all the transition words and phrases that I used to write this article to show you how common and useful they are.
Look at the following excerpt about jellyfish and starfish. I've used four transition words and phrases.
Jellyfish and starfish have a few similarities even though they look nothing alike. They both live in the sea, therefore they share a habitat. However, starfish are pretty substantial creatures while jellyfish are 95 per cent water. In conclusion, jellyfish and starfish are not related.
Now imagine if I hadn't used these transition words; this text would be pretty difficult to understand. Case in point:
Jellyfish and starfish have a few similarities. They look nothing alike. They both live in the sea. They share a habitat. Starfish are pretty substantial creatures while jellyfish are 95 per cent water. Jellyfish and starfish are not related.
Not very much fun to read, is it?
Hopefully, this goes some way in explaining why we use transition words. They really help with transition! What's more, they alert the reader that you're about to introduce a new idea or present a conflicting point to the one you just made.
One of the many great things about transition words is their versatility. There are tons and tons of them to suit any occasion. In fact, there are so many that they had to make categories for them.
The categories presented here below are our own. You might find them categorized slightly differently by other sources, or the category's titles might vary. Still, fundamentally, the most important thing is to understand what each word means and how to use them in the right context.
This list is non-exhaustive. There are too many transition words and phrases to list! Moreover, many of these transition words fit into more than one category.
We actually wrote a whole article on this one, where we give you 41 other ways to say 'for example.' Check it out.
Here are a few to get you started:
Now that you understand what transition words are and have a long list of examples let's talk about how you should use them, notably where to place them in your sentences.
Let me elaborate.
Here are some examples:
Ultimately, anyone can learn English.
Certainly, if they study enough they stand a good chance.
Due to grammar rules, anyone can learn English.
In that last example, the transition phrase 'due to' isn't directly followed by a comma because it needed a few follow-up words to go with it, but the comma came shortly after.
In a compound sentence made up of two independent clauses, a semicolon usually separates the two clauses. For this reason, if a transition word is used at the beginning of the second clause, it's preceded by a semicolon.
They say life is short; however, I find it to be pretty long.
I don't really enjoy romantic comedies; consequently, I rarely watch them.
It's going to rain this weekend; for that reason we've decided to postpone our camping trip.
Sometimes you might see sentences where the transition word appears not to be at the beginning of the sentence but further in, or even in the middle or at the end. Usually, this is because it's a complex sentence.
Complex sentences comprise one independent clause and at least one dependent clause, and the clauses aren't necessarily separated by any punctuation. As a result, if the dependent clause begins with a transition word, it will probably just end up looking like the transition word is right in the middle of the sentence.
Here is a sentence that illustrates this:
We had a great weekend despite the rain.
The independent clause is 'We had a great weekend' and the dependent clause is 'despite the rain.' The transition word 'despite' is the first word of the dependent clause.
If you're going to use transition words in your text (which you should), you'll want to do it properly. There are some common errors you'll want to avoid.
Although she was nervous. ❌
Although she was nervous, she went to the cinema alone. ✅
That concludes this article on transition words. I hope you've found it helpful.
Let's summarize what we've learned:
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