Transition Words: What Are Transition Words? Definitions and Examples

By Carly Forsaith, updated on August 8, 2023

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.

In short:

  • Transition words and phrases help connect ideas in your text.
  • They allow for a smooth transition from one topic to another. 

This guide is part of our free online Grammar Book.

What Are Transition Words?

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.

  • You might think of transition words as bridges between different parts of your text.
  • With that bridge, the reader might find it difficult to understand the point you're trying to make.

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.

Transition Word Categories

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.

To Add

  • moreover
  • as well as
  • of course
  • comparatively
  • correspondingly
  • furthermore
  • additionally
  • besides
  • furthermore
  • next
  • what's more
  • in addition

To Show Similarity

  • by the same token
  • likewise
  • similarly
  • in the same way
  • equally
  • in similar fashion

To Compare or Contrast

  • whereas
  • but
  • yet
  • on the other hand
  • however
  • nevertheless
  • on the contrary
  • by comparison
  • where
  • compared to
  • up against
  • balanced against
  • although
  • conversely
  • in contrast
  • although
  • still
  • in spite of
  • despite

To Show Cause and Effect

  • therefore
  • that's why
  • due to
  • in effect
  • as a result
  • then
  • thus
  • hence
  • in that case
  • for this reason
  • on account of
  • because the
  • hence
  • thus
  • under those circumstances
  • henceforth
  • consequently
  • as a consequence
  • accordingly

To Show Sequence

  • first and foremost
  • presently
  • following
  • now
  • at this time
  • occasionally
  • previously
  • once
  • firstly
  • secondly
  • thirdly
  • after
  • finally
  • in the meantime
  • subsequently
  • in a moment
  • momentarily
  • after
  • above all
  • at the present time
  • all of a sudden
  • every so often
  • before
  • last but not least

To Emphasize

  • certainly
  • especially
  • explicitly
  • specifically
  • expressly
  • significantly
  • particularly
  • to emphasize
  • notably
  • namely
  • chiefly
  • unquestionably
  • without a doubt
  • notably
  • above all
  • indeed
  • importantly
  • undoubtedly
  • to reiterate
  • as has been noted
  • once again

To Give an Example

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:

  • to clarify
  • in other words
  • for example
  • for instance
  • take the case of
  • to demonstrate
  • to illustrate
  • by way of illustration

To Summarize or Conclude

  • in the final analysis
  • all things considered
  • as shown above
  • in summary
  • in conclusion
  • in short
  • in brief
  • in essence
  • to summarize
  • altogether
  • overall
  • to sum up
  • on the whole
  • all in all
  • ultimately
  • altogether
  • as a result
  • consequently

How to Use Transition Words

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.

  • Most of the time, a transition word is either found at the beginning of a sentence or at the beginning of a clause, in which case it is preceded by a semicolon. They are usually followed by a comma.

Let me elaborate.

In a simple sentence made up of just one clause, the transition word will be found at the beginning of the sentence, and the transition phrase will sometimes be followed by a comma.

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.

Case in point:

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.

Common Errors When Using Transition Words

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.

  • The first is to avoid overusing them. They're very useful and can definitely help add clarity, but if you use them too much, your text can feel cluttered and over-explained.
  • Secondly, a lot of transition words get misused. Ensure you understand the true meaning of the word you're trying to use, or you might be misunderstood. Pick a word that shows the true relationship you are trying to illustrate.
  • And finally, use the correct punctuation with your transition words, lest you create sentence fragments. That's when you write little pieces of sentences that are incomplete and, therefore, grammatically incorrect. A clause with a transition word will always be a dependent clause, meaning it must be attached to an independent clause.

For example:

Although she was nervous.

Although she was nervous, she went to the cinema alone. 

Final Thoughts on Transition Words

That concludes this article on transition words. I hope you've found it helpful.

Let's summarize what we've learned:

  • Transition words help you smoothly move from one idea to another or show their relationship.
  • There are transition words and transition phrases.
  • They can be categorized according to their function, although some will cross over several categories. 
  • Usually, transition words and phrases are placed at the beginning of a sentence or clause and are often followed by a comma.
  • Avoid overusing transition words or creating sentence fragments.

If you enjoyed this article, you'll probably love our Grammar Book. It's a free online database full of articles just like this one. Check it out!

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Written By:
Carly Forsaith
Carly Forsaith is one of the lead freelance writers for Carly is a copywriter who has been writing about the English language for over 3 years. Before that, she was a teacher in Thailand, helping people learn English as a second language. She is a total grammar nerd and spends her time spotting language errors on signs and on the internet.

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