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Connectives in English

Do you need to brush up on your English for an exam? No matter the subject, the use of connectives when speaking or writing in English is a must. Here’s everything you need to know about these valuable words.

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What is a connective in English?

We call Connectives the words or phrases that link - or connect - sentences together. They can be prepositions (of, at, on, from), conjunctions (because, also, so), or adverbs, and they are used all the time in both written and spoken English.

As in other languages, connectives are practical words that make us link thoughts to convey our message in a natural way. Without them, our speech would sound completely odd.

I’ve called Julia, Matteo, Sara last weekend.

We’re out tomato paste make dinner tonight.

In other words, without connectives, one wouldn't be able to speak or write in full sentences!

Connectives can go from the very simple, such as ‘and’ or ‘next’ to the more detailed, such as ‘firstly’ or ‘although.’

Connectives in English usually fall into three categories: conjunctions, prepositions and adverbs.

We'll talk about conjunctions later on, but for now, here's everything you need to know about prepositions and adverbs:

· A preposition is a word used before nouns, pronouns, or other substantives to form phrases. They will give us details such as when or where a given action took place, working as modifiers of verbs, nouns, or adjectives. Examples are under, on, before, after.

· An adverb is a word that details how an action is carried out. We call adverbs modifiers because they can rather change or add detail to another adverb or to a verb, adjective, and even a whole clause. Adverbs can describe manner or time. Unfortunately, quickly, further, there, West.

Connectives are used for a number of situations. The goal is to give further clarity to our message when speaking or writing as they add specific detail and enrich the speech.

What is a connective phrase?

As mentioned previously, a connective can be one or multiple words together. “As a result of” or “because of that” can link phrases and sentences together as much as simple words like ”so”. All of them are connectives of “result”.

In parallel with this, conjunctions are sometimes used at the start of a sentence, rather than in the middle. The example is the start of this paragraph.

Other examples of connective phrases include:

· As well as

· On the other hand

· Meanwhile

Examples of connectives in English

Connectives and clauses: how to use connectives in clauses?

Connectives and punctuation work together to link different clauses in a sentence. Using connectives between clauses creates what we call a compound sentence. This is the only way to create them.

For example, we could say: 'I ate melons and pistachios.'

Using the simple connective 'and' brings together two main clauses that would both make sense on their own. For example, the following sentences show how connectives can be used to join to clauses in a sentence:

· I have one brother and two sisters.

· I bought the fare tickets but they were quite expensive.

Connectives and clauses are also present when using complex sentences or multi-clause sentences.

A complex sentence is formed when you join a main clause and a subordinate clause with a connective. A subordinate clause is the one that only makes sense because of the main clause.

Can you identify which are the main clause and the subordinate clause in each example below?

. I love Fridays, although my brother prefers Saturdays.

· You should prepare for your Spanish oral exam tomorrow if you want to get a good grade.

· The neighbor's dog barks whenever the mailman passes by.

Differences between connectives and conjunctions

The difference between the two can be confusing at the first sight but don’t worry, connectives ARE NOT the same ad conjunctions.

Actually, a conjunction is a type of connective but usually being one single word (but, so, then…). In other words:

Connectives join two separate ideas in two sentences or paragraphs, often in the beginning of a sentence.

In this case, conjunctions are used in order to link two parts of a sentence together. The most common conjunctions are the words and, but and or.

Coordinating Conjunction

A coordinating conjunction is used to link two independent clauses. For example:

‘I love children.’ and ‘I have for nephew. ‘are independent clauses. We can join these into a more complex sentence.

'I love children and I have four nephews.’

In this sentence, ‘and’ is a connective.

Subordinating Conjunction

This "tool" is used to introduce a subordinate clause. A subordinate clause provides extra information about the main clause of a sentence. For instance:

'I want to learn the connectives in English' and 'I have to write an essay next week'

You can join these together with subordinating conjunction:

'I want to learn the connectives in English because I have to write an essay next


In the sentence, because is the connective you used.

Sequencing Connectives

Sequencing connectives are there to help develop a temporal sequence of ideas. For instance:

'They took a nap after lunch.'

In this sentence, after is the connective

Is 'but' a connective?

Yes, you can use but as a connective, because it is used to connect ideas that contrast each other.

An example of using 'but' as a connective would be:

'I don't eat meat but I eat fish.'

But clearly shows the contrast in the sentence and connects the section about eating fish. It gives us the information that besides the fact that the person doesn't eat red meat, she still eats fish.

But can modify sentences in so many ways. It can be used as a connective, preposition, adverb, or noun!

You made it! Now that you are more familiar with Connectives in English can you practice writing a few paragraphs using some of them?

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