One way to sound more interesting when you speak or write in English is to express yourself in increasingly complex ways. By using sentence connectors (coordinating conjunctions, correlative conjunctions, subordinating conjunctions, and linking adverbs and transitions), you can link related ideas together and combine sentences to move beyond using just basic sentence structures. These connectors will add depth, interest, and finesse to your ESL skills. And you will sound more like a native speaker and competent ESL speaker and writer.
After you have studied the different types of connectors, you will be able to listen for them in English conversations and spot them when you read. It might be helpful for you to practice using these sentence connectors when you speak and write. A suggestion would be to take a sentence of your own and change it based on the examples below. And when you speak English, try to incorporate these connectors into your casual day-to-day speaking and writing. You could focus on one type of connector at a time and work on that one until it is engrained naturally in your language. You could have a goal of using so many connectors in a given day or week. Then you could move on to add another one, and so on.
Before we begin, let’s look at an example of a connector in the article Some Lessons Flipped in Retirement Investing (USA Today, April 18, 2014). Author Waggoner writes “He puts his $1 million into a fund that tracks the Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index.” Notice how the word “that” connects the two ideas. Now, let’s see what this sentence looks/sounds like if it were broken into two simple sentences: “He puts his $1 million into a fund. The fund tracks the Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index.”
Hopefully this example helps you understand how the word “that” is used as a connector, and more importantly you can see how this one word used correctly brings more depth, interest, and finesse to the written English language. Now read both examples out loud: the one sentence as written with the connector “that” and the other two shorter sentences without the connector “that”. How do you think the sentences sound? I think you will agree that this example does show the difference connectors make and the value they bring to the English language.
Let’s look at types of connectors. For the sake of instruction, these fall into different categories: coordinating conjunctions, correlative conjunctions, subordinating conjunctions, and linking adverbs and transitions. It doesn’t matter that you know what type of connector is used, just that you use it correctly. Some of them have similar meanings, but most of them can’t be used interchangeably since the meaning of the sentence would undoubtedly change.
1. Coordinating Conjunctions – Coordinating Conjunctions connect words, phrases, and clauses in sentences. Usually, they are found in the middle of a sentence; there is a comma just before the conjunction. Otherwise, they can be used at the beginning of a sentence. These conjunctions include: and, but, for, nor, or, so, yet.
Check out these examples from the same newspaper article that was quoted above:
[The retiree], Ralph, read a great deal about retirement, and he used several retirement calculators. Rather than Ralph read a great deal about retirement. He used several retirement calculators.
Ralph left work at the end of March 2000, but he withdrew $4167 for his living expenses. Rather than Ralph left work at the end of March 2000. He withdrew $4167 for his living expenses.
Neither the CEO nor the shareholders could accurately predict the future value of the company. Rather than The CEO could not accurately predict the future value of the company. The shareholders could not predict the future either.
2. Correlative Conjunctions – Correlative Conjunctions connect equal sentence elements together (like two nouns) and are always composed by two words. These conjunctions include: both… and; not only… but also; not… but; either… or; neither… nor; whether… or; as… as.
These examples come from a book I am currently reading entitled Living with Intensity by S. Daniels:
Not only can we help them develop at menu of options to cope with things that irritate and annoy them, but also we can encourage them to seek what gives them pleasure. Rather than We can help them [children] develop a menu of options to cope with things that irritate and annoy them. We can encourage them to seek what gives them pleasure.
Imagination works and plays in the everyday and contributes to daily joy and reverie, as well as to great discovery and invention. Rather than Imagination works and plays in the everyday and contributes to daily joy and reverie. It also contributes to great discovery and invention.
We have had the delightful opportunities to share in children’s imaginations, inventions, and stories whether as a parent or as a teacher. Rather than We have had the delightful opportunities to share in children’s imaginations, inventions, and stories as a parent. As a teacher we have had the same opportunities.
3. Subordinating Conjunctions – Subordinating Conjunctions connect a dependent clause and an independent clause and establish a relationship between them. They are used at the beginning of sentences (with a comma in the middle to separate the clauses) or in the middle of a sentence (without a comma). These conjunctions include a variety of words: after, if, if only, though, although, till, as, in order that, unless, as if, now that, until, as long as, once when, as though, rather than, whenever, because, since, where, before, so that, since, where, before, so that, whereas, even if, than, wherever, even though, that, while.
These examples come from some classified ads for employment:
Apply to this job only after you have read the entire job description. Rather than Read the entire job description. Then apply to this job.
If you can write quickly, then this might be the job for you! Rather than Can you write quickly? Then this might be the job for you!
The job is available if only you relocate to California. Rather than The job is available. You must relocate to California.
Though the salary is slightly under 30k, you will have the opportunity to advance. Rather than The salary is slightly under 30k. You will have the opportunity to advance.
We would ideally like to hire by the end of the month although we will open up the position if we do not find a suitable candidate. Rather than We would ideally like to hire by the end of the month. The position will be opened up if we do not find a suitable candidate.
It is essential that you have an MBA in order that you are a right fit in our growing organization. Rather than It is essential to have an MBA. Having an MBA is necessary to be the right fit for our growing organization.
We treat you as if you were family. Rather than We treat you nicely. We treat you like family.
Now that you know about us, why don’t you share a little about your background and why you are a good fit for our organization? Rather than You know about us now. Why don’t you share a little about your background and why you are a good fit for our organization?
Until we know exactly the number of open positions, we will keep all of the applications on file. Rather than We don’t know exactly the number of open positions. We will keep all of the applications on file.
As long as you work hard, you will do well in our firm. Rather than You need to work hard. Then you will do well in our firm.
It is preferable that you call and set up an appointment rather than to wait. Rather than
It is mandatory that you have an advanced degree because of the types of clients we serve. Rather than
Please write so that we can hear about your interest in our company. Rather than Please write. Tell us about your interest in our company.
Since the beginning of our company, we have strived for 100% customer satisfaction. Rather than Our company has always worked toward customer satisfaction. We strive for 100% customer satisfaction.
Come to sunny Mexico where you can make a true difference. Rather than Come to sunny Mexico. You can make a true difference.
Before merging, our company headquarters was in Chicago. Rather than Our company headquarters was in Chicago. Now we have merged and moved.
Send us a resume so that we can know your skills. Rather than Send us a resume. We will see your skills.
Even if there is not an opening, apply anyway. Rather than There may not be any openings. Apply anyway.
While growing the company, we realized it is our customer and our contractors that matter. Rather than We were growing the company. We realized it is our customer and our contractors that matter.
4. Linking Adverbs and Transition Words – Linking Adverbs and Transition Words connect two independent clauses or sentences. They help transition the ideas. These words include: accordingly, however, nonetheless, also, indeed, otherwise, besides, instead, similarly, consequently, likewise, still, conversely, meanwhile, subsequently, finally, moreover, then, furthermore, nevertheless, therefore, hence, next, and thus.
These examples come from the news, weather, and sports channel:
The judge prosecuted the criminal accordingly to the statues of the law. Rather than The judge prosecuted the criminal. The judge followed the statues of the law.
It will be a sunny day, however as the day goes on, the sun will disappear to clouds. Rather than It will be a sunny day. As the day goes on, the sun will disappear to clouds.
The flights from California were delayed; nonetheless you could not see disappointment on the players’ faces. Rather than The flights from California were delayed. You could not see the players’ disappointed faces.
The Government looked at the health plan and also the insurance policies. Rather than The Government looked at the health plan. They looked at the insurance policies.
Tax season is over and indeed it was record year of companies filing for extensions. Rather than Tax season is over. It was a record year of companies filing for extensions.
The girls’ soccer team played well, besides the two injured forwards. Rather than The girls’ soccer team played well. There were two injured forwards.
Instead of the passage of that law, Congress decided to table it for now. Rather than It was time to pass the law. Congress decided to table it for now.
The basketball player accepted the scholarship; consequently he will put off an NBA career. Rather than The basketball player accepted the scholarship. He will put off an NBA career.
The police were looking for any mischievous behavior, likewise any criminal action. Rather than The police were looking for any mischievous behavior. They were looking for any criminal action.
Spring has not come to many parts of the country; furthermore there is snow in many of the northern areas. Rather than Spring has not come to many parts of the country. There is sow in many of the northern areas.
It is hard for anyone to save money these days; nevertheless it is essential to begin a savings plan. Rather than It is hard for anyone to save money these days. It is essential to begin a savings plan.
Obesity seems to be an epidemic; therefore we must ask to help. Rather than Obesity seems to be an epidemic. We must ask to help.
First, there are the practice runs and next, there are the agility drills. Rather than First, there are the practice runs. There are agility drills.
Connectors are often short words that no one pays much attention to… but they play a big part in the English language. As ESL speakers and writers we need to know their use and try to incorporate them into our own language. Although connectors might seem insignificant, connectors go a long way to adding value to our language. They help to bring interest into the language while also helping us to express ourselves in more complex ways. In addition, connectors help add depth and finesse to our ESL skills. We do sound more like native speakers and writers with casual and formal language.
Write to me using the comments section below and let me know your thoughts about this article. Has it helped you to think more about connectors? Have you been able to add some connectors to your own English language when you either speak or write? Has it helped with your ESL fluency?