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Athabasca University

Transitional Devices

There are two basic types of transitions, conjunctive adverbs and conjunctions. Another type of transition is called a referent. Transition words and phrases are used to clarify the relationships between sentences. Transitions can be divided into groups according to their functions.

Types of Conjunctive Adverbs

A conjunctive adverb modifies the action by creating logical connections in meaning between independent clauses. Unlike conjunctions, conjunctive adverbs are not always at the beginning of the clause.

  1. Of addition
    Examples:
    • also, besides, furthermore, moreover, etc.
    • The condo complex has tennis courts; besides this, it has an indoor pool.
    • He must have got stopped at the border crossing; otherwise, he would have arrived by now.
    • The lecturer had a monotonous voice; furthermore, he jumped from one idea to another so that the lecture was very difficult to follow.
  2. Of contrast
    Examples:
    • however, still, nevertheless, conversely, nonetheless, instead, etc.
    • The printers are on strike; registered students will, nevertheless, receive course packages on time.
    • We were able to run only four courses; still, this compares favourably with other summer programmes.
    • It's really cold today; we can't complain, however, as it's been mild overall.
  3. Of comparison
    Examples:
    • similarly, likewise
    • Paul went to Lakeland college; his daughter, likewise, did her studies there.
    • Kate is engrossed in her dogs; Martha is similarly obsessed with her horses.
  4. Of result
    Examples:
    • therefore, hence, thus, consequently, etc.
    • He rarely produced a day's work; he consequently lost his job.
    • Caffeine is a stimulant; thus, it can keep a person awake at night.
    • We discovered Ida's activities were duplicating those of Marla; we, therefore, assigned Ida other tasks.
  5. Of time
    Examples:
    • next, then, meanwhile, finally, subsequently, etc.
    • The chairman will be late for the meeting; meanwhile, we're to hand out minutes of the last meeting to the board members.
    • The network has crashed; next, the power will go off.
    • First boil the water; then, pour it over the tea bag.

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Types of Conjunctions

A conjunction is used to join words or groups of words.

  1. Coordinating conjunctions
    • join grammatically equivalent sentence elements
    Examples:
    • and, for, or, yet, but, nor, so
    • Edmonton and Calgary are the two largest cities in Alberta. (And joins two nouns.)
    • Look in the cupboard or in the drawer. (Or joins two phrases.)
    • You can't do that kind of heavy work, nor should you be expected to. (Nor joins two clauses.)
  2. Correlative conjunctions
    • pairs of words that join words, phrases, and clauses of equivalent grammatical structure
    Examples:
    • both . . . and
      either . . . or
      neither . . . nor
      not . . . but
      not only . . . but (also)
      whether . . . or
    • Both Susan and Bill received their ten-year pin this year.
    • Either you get a job or you go back to school.
    • Whether you stay or leave is entirely your decision.
  3. Subordinating conjunctions
    These join clauses that are not equivalent grammatical structures. Subordinating conjunctions introduce dependent clauses. These clauses cannot stand by themselves but must be joined to a main or independent clause.
    The following is a list of words most often used as subordinating conjunctions:
    after even though than wherever
    although if that whether
    as in order that though which
    as if in order to unless while
    as though rather than until who
    because since when  
    before so as to whenever  
    even if so that where  
    Examples:
    • In order to make feasible projections, we need to have reliable data.
    • He's taller than you are.
    • He looks as if he were about to cry.

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Referents*

A referent is a noun or noun phrase that occurred earlier in the text and is subsequently referred to using words such as it or this.

Example: Traditionally, business simply meant exchange or trade for things people wanted or needed. Today, it has a more technical definition. (it refers to business.)

Example: However, there is one other important factor. This factor is the creation of profit or economic surplus. (this factor refers to the same concept — one other important concept — in the previous sentence.)

* This information on referents is adapted from Business Concepts for English Practice by Marianne McDougal Arden and Barbara Tolley Dowling.

Note: there are other words and phrases that can also be used as referents.

Updated September 10 2014 by Student & Academic Services

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