As a "part of speech" transition words are used to link words, phrases or sentences. They help the reader to progress from one idea (expressed by the author) to the next idea. Thus, they help to build up coherent relationships within the text.
This structured list of commonly used English transition words — approximately 200, can be considered as quasi complete. It can be used (by students and teachers alike) to find the right expression. English transition words are essential, since they not only connect ideas, but also can introduce a certain shift, contrast or opposition, emphasis or agreement, purpose, result or conclusion, etc. in the line of argument.
The transition words and phrases have been assigned only once to somewhat artificial categories, although some words belong to more than one category.
There is some overlapping with prepositions and postpositions, but for the purpose of usage and completeness of this concise guide, I did not differentiate.
Agreement / Addition / Similarity
The transition words like also, in addition, and, likewise, add information, reinforce ideas, and express agreement with preceding material.
in the first place
not only ... but also
as a matter of fact
in like manner
in the same fashion / way
first, second, third
in the light of
not to mention
to say nothing of
by the same token
as well as
Opposition / Limitation / Contradiction
Transition phrases like but, rather and or, express that there is evidence to the contrary or point out alternatives, and thus introduce a change the line of reasoning (contrast).
although this may be true
of course ..., but
on the other hand
on the contrary
at the same time
in spite of
even so / though
be that as it may
as much as
Cause / Condition / Purpose
These transitional phrases present specific conditions or intentions.
in the event that
as / so long as
on (the) condition (that)
for the purpose of
with this intention
with this in mind
in the hope that
to the end that
for fear that
in order to
seeing / being that
in view of
only / even if
so as to
Examples / Support / Emphasis
These transitional devices (like especially) are used to introduce examples as support, to indicate importance or as an illustration so that an idea is cued to the reader.
in other words
to put it differently
for one thing
as an illustration
in this case
for this reason
to put it another way
that is to say
with attention to
by all means
important to realize
another key point
first thing to remember
most compelling evidence
must be remembered
point often overlooked
to point out
on the positive side
on the negative side
with this in mind
to be sure
Effect / Consequence / Result
Some of these transition words (thus, then, accordingly, consequently, therefore, henceforth) are time words that are used to show that after a particular time there was a consequence or an effect.
Note that for and because are placed before the cause/reason. The other devices are placed before the consequences or effects.
as a result
under those circumstances
in that case
for this reason
Conclusion / Summary / Restatement
These transition words and phrases conclude, summarize and / or restate ideas, or indicate a final general statement. Also some words (like therefore) from the Effect / Consequence category can be used to summarize.
as can be seen
in the final analysis
all things considered
as shown above
in the long run
given these points
as has been noted
in a word
for the most part
by and large
to sum up
on the whole
in any event
in either case
all in all
Time / Chronology / Sequence
These transitional words (like finally) have the function of limiting, restricting, and defining time. They can be used either alone or as part of adverbial expressions.
at the present time
from time to time
sooner or later
at the same time
up to the present time
to begin with
in due time
as soon as
as long as
in the meantime
in a moment
in the first place
all of a sudden
at this instant
by the time
Many transition words in the time category (consequently; first, second, third; further; hence; henceforth; since; then, when; and whenever) have other uses.
Except for the numbers (first, second, third) and further they add a meaning of time in expressing conditions, qualifications, or reasons. The numbers are also used to add information or list examples. Further is also used to indicate added space as well as added time.
Space / Location / Place
These transition words are often used as part of adverbial expressions and have the function to restrict, limit or qualify space. Quite a few of these are also found in the Time category and can be used to describe spatial order or spatial reference.
in the middle
to the left/right
in front of
on this side
in the distance
here and there
in the foreground
in the background
in the center of
List of Transition Words
Transition Words are also sometimes called (or put in the category of) Connecting Words. Please feel free to download them via this link to the category page:
Linking Words & Connecting Words as a PDF.
It contains all the transition words listed on this site. The image to the left gives you an impression how it looks like.
Usage of Transition Words in Essays
Transition words and phrases are vital devices for essays, papers or other literary compositions. They improve the connections and transitions between sentences and paragraphs. They thus give the text a logical organization and structure (see also: a List of Synonyms).
All English transition words and phrases (sometimes also called 'conjunctive adverbs') do the same work as coordinating conjunctions: they connect two words, phrases or clauses together and thus the text is easier to read and the coherence is improved.
Usage: transition words are used with a special rule for punctuation: a semicolon or a period is used after the first 'sentence', and a comma is almost always used to set off the transition word from the second 'sentence'.
People use 43 muscles when they frown; however, they use only 28 muscles when they smile.
However, transition words can also be placed at the beginning of a new paragraph or sentence - not only to indicate a step forward in the reasoning, but also to relate the new material to the preceding thoughts.
Use a semicolon to connect sentences, only if the group of words on either side of the semicolon is a complete sentence each (both must have a subject and a verb, and could thus stand alone as a complete thought).
Further helpful readings about expressions, writing and grammar: Compilation of Writing Tips How to write good ¦ Correct Spelling Study by an English University
Are you using WORD for writing professional texts and essays? There are many easy Windows Shortcuts available which work (almost) system-wide (e.g. in every programm you use).
The film Finding Forrester tells a story of a high school student who becomes friends with a famous writer named William Forrester.
Forrester published a single book, then withdrew from public life.
Forrester teaches the student about writing. In one scene, he gives this piece of advice:
"You should never start a sentence with a conjunction… It's a firm rule."
In today's program, we are going to explore that “rule.” Should writers not use conjunctions such as but and and at the beginning of a sentence?
What are coordinating conjunctions?
Many writing students are confused about conjunctions. Perhaps their teacher told them they should never write sentences that begin with conjunctions. Yet, they have seen sentences beginning with conjunctions in newspapers and books.
So, should you or shouldn’t you? Before we answer the question, here are some important definitions.
But and and come from a group of words called coordinating conjunctions. These words connect two or more structures.
Consider this example:
I disapproved of his study habits, and I told him so.
This example sentence has two independent clauses. An independent clause is a group of words that could make a complete sentence.
Let's study the sentence closely.
The sentence has a subject, I, and a predicate, disapproved of his study habits. The second part of the sentence, I told him so, also has a subject, I, and a predicate, told him so.
What about but? Here is an example:
She claimed to be the best student in her class, but I suspect she's joking.
Once again, this sentence has two independent clauses joined by a conjunction.
The important point, writes English grammar expert Martha Kolln, is that coordinating conjunctions connect structures as equals. They show that structures or ideas have an equal weight or importance in the sentence.
There is a difference, however. And shows that the structures go together; but shows that the structures contrast.
Conjunctions can be used with a variety of punctuations, notes Max Morenberg, an English grammar expert. They can even connect two or more sentences.
Using conjunctions to connect sentences can show how ideas relate to one another across sentences. The use of conjunctions can also give a certain flow - or abruptness - to a writer's sentences.
Conjunctions and Style
Let's look at famous examples from literature.
Novelist Vladimir Nabokov is famous for the beautiful way he uses language. Most critics say his 1955 book, Lolita, is a classic.
If you read the book, you will notice that Nabokov sometimes starts sentences with conjunctions.
In one of the first lines of Lolita, Nabokov uses but to start a sentence:
"She was Dolly at school. She was Dolores on the dotted line. But in my arms she was always Lolita.”
In this example, Nabokov creates a pattern in the first two sentences. Then, he breaks the pattern by using a different sentence structure.
The word but helps to show a contrast between ideas, and it also helps to create a mix of sentence styles.
Nabokov's use of but at the beginning of the sentence lends a poetic quality. The word adds interest and drama.
Nabokov also uses "and" to begin a sentence
Nabokov used and at the beginning of a sentence, too.
At the end of Lolita, the lead character Humbert Humbert is writing a goodbye to Lolita that he knows she will never read.
In the last paragraph, and begins several sentences. The usage gives the reader the idea that each sentence holds equal importance. It also gives the reader the feeling that Humbert is writing the thoughts as quickly as they enter his mind.
Consider the last two sentences of Lolita:
"I am thinking of aurochs and angels, the secret of durable pigments, prophetic sonnets, the refuge of art. And this is the only immortality you and I may share, my Lolita.
Should you use conjunctions at the beginning of a sentence?
You might think that you should begin writing sentences that begin with conjunctions. Nabokov did it! So did other famous writers, such as Jane Austen and Mark Twain.
We suggest that you be careful about using conjunctions at the beginning of sentences.
Teachers have good reasons for repeating this rule.
First, students often use conjunctions incorrectly. This can confuse the reader.
Second, many students use conjunctions too often. This creates a repetitive writing style. Remember: you should use many different sentence structures when you are writing.
Think of Nabokov's writing – he used conjunctions to give style to his writing. He did not begin every sentence in the same way!
What can you do?
We started this report with a question: can you begin a sentence with a conjunction?
The answer is yes.
Should you begin a sentence or a paragraph with a conjunction?
That answer depends on your writing ability.
The next time you are reading the news or a book, try to look for examples of but or and at the beginning of a sentence. Ask yourself why the writer formed the sentence that way. Does the choice make stylistic sense?
The process of mastering conjunctions can be difficult and lengthy.
But you will make progress -- with time. And we will be here to help!
I'm John Russell.
And I'm Pete Musto.
John Russell wrote this story for Learning English. Caty Weaver was the editor.
We want to hear from you. Write to us in the Comments Section.
Words in This Story
conjunction – n.grammar a word that joins together sentences, clauses, phrases, or words
coordinating conjunction– n. a conjunction (such as and, or, or but) that joins together words, phrases, or clauses of equal importance
clause – n. grammar a part of a sentence that has its own subject and verb
controversial– adj. relating to or causing much discussion, disagreement, or argument
contrast– n. something that is different from another thing — + to
aurochs – n. large, black European wild ox, extinct since 1627.
pigment – n. a substance that gives color to something else
immortality – n. the quality or state of someone or something that will never die or be forgotten
repetitive– n. happening again and again: repeated many times