We recently talked about how easy English grammar can be. Today, let’s explore another important element in any sentence: English linking words. These work as connectors between two ideas, at the beginning of a sentence, in the middle or at the end. So sometimes they are called connectors, connectives, or transition words.
And there are plenty! There are hundreds of linking words in English. Let’s look at some of the most frequently used ones (no need to learn them all right away!).
Linking Words in English
English linking words are also known as connectors because their role is simply to connect, to associate two ideas. Let’s look at a very simple example: and. This English linking word lets you put several ideas in the same sentence. And is a great way to introduce logic in any story.
Using linking words can clarify your sentences, make your speech or writing more fluid, and make you sound more natural in English. Think of connecting words like salt or pepper to add to your sentences: don’t overdo it, but adding some here and there can make your speech (or dish) much tastier!
Logical connectors also let you structure a narrative, emphasize particular ideas in a sentence, organize your text in chronological order, create contrasts, explain situations in terms of cause and effect, summarize or introduce your arguments, and more… This is why there are so many English connectors – because they have so many functions!
We’ve put together a list to help you learn the difference between all the types of connectors and linking words in English so that you can use them correctly. Of course, there are others that aren’t on this list! But, between us, it is useless to learn every single one (since lots of them mean the same thing). At least at the beginning, remembering just a few of these is enough to communicate more effectively in English. We’ve highlighted the most useful linking words in bold, which you really ought to know by heart.
An English linking word can be placed at the beginning, in the middle, or even at the end of your sentence. But you don’t always get to choose where to put them! They can’t all be placed just anywhere in a sentence. It all depends on the role of the connector you are using. Some are intuitive, like the connecting words in the “introduction” category (those obviously go at the beginning). Some are less intuitive, so you’ll have to observe how they are used in natural contexts and try and figure out a pattern.
If you use the MosaLingua Learn English app, remember that you can create your own flashcards. This can be a really helpful feature since you can add your own examples and context to help you remember the placement of new English connecting words.
Introductory linking words are mainly used at the beginning of sentences. They allow you to introduce your ideas or arguments.
- First / First of all: used to introduce the first of several different ideas in a list. In the “Addition” section, there are the words second, third, etc. Remember that if you are talking about a number of ideas, use the same type of linking word for each idea. For example, use first, second, third, or use firstly, secondly, thirdly, but don’t mix them up.
- In / At the beginning
- To begin (with)
Linking words that express addition are the most common types of connectors. The most common connective which expresses addition is and. But there are many others:
- Secondly: use this one with firstly
- Then / Next
- Also / too: The difference between the two? Also is used at the beginning of the sentence, after the subject, while too is used at the end of the sentence.
- As well as
- In fact / as a matter of fact: used to add an idea to emphasize your first idea
- Actually: used to emphasize an idea or introduce a second idea which illustrates the first
- Besides: used to talk about a relevant idea
- By the way
- In the same way: used to talk about a similar or connected idea
- In other words: used to rephrase an idea
- On one hand / on the other hand: find out what this one means in the video below!
- That is to say: used to rephrase an idea
- In addition
- Such as: used to give an example
- Above all: used to introduce the most important idea
- Or rather: used to rephrase or reformulate an idea
- Especially: this one also allows you to add emphasis to a particular part or consequence of an idea
To express an idea and to give a contrary opinion, use an English linking word of opposition.
- While: use this connecting word at the start of a sentence, or following a comma after your first idea
- Instead of
- Nevertheless / nonetheless
- If not
- Whereas: this linking word can be used in much the same way as while
- Contrary to
- In comparison
- In spite of
- That said
Conditional connectives are used to express a condition in a sentence. Be careful, because if you are using a conditional linking word you might need to use the conditional tense with it.
- As long as / so long as
- Otherwise: this linking word is sometimes followed by the conditional tense.
- In case
To express a causal relationship, there are different logical connectors in English. They can be used at the beginning of the sentence, or in the middle between the two ideas (because in particular).
- Because of
- Due to
- Thanks to: what is the difference between due to and thanks to? Due to often introduces a cause which has negative consequences, while thanks to introduces a cause which has positive consequences. E.g. My clothes are wet due to the rain. My clothes have dried out thanks to the sun. Thanks to can sometimes be used sarcastically, so watch out…
- As: when used as a linking word, as indicates cause. “I didn’t bring my pencils, as I didn’t know we would be drawing today.
- Since: “The USA is struggling to pass laws protecting the climate since their President does not believe in climate change.”
- This is the reason why
- This is why
- For this reason
These are used mostly at the end of the sentence or at the end of an entire conversation.
- So (that)
- So as to
- Thus / Therefore
- In consequence / consequently
- As a result (of)
- In this / that case
- That is why
- In order to
- In the end / at the end of the day
- At last
- In conclusion / to conclude
- To sum up
Some linking words can be used as “filler.” That means that you can use them when you are trying to think of the right word to use (and replace the classic “uh” or “um”), but they don’t really mean anything. Which English connectors can you use in this case? Use them sparingly, or they could become a bad habit!
- You know
- Anyway: use this connector to end a conversation or change the subject.
As you can see, there are hundreds of English logical connectors. But, we repeat, it is useless to learn them all at once, especially if you are just starting to learn English. This list gives you a good overview of the linking words used in English grammar. You can start by learning a few, or even one, from each category, then add them little by little to your vocabulary artillery!
Tip: your English app can help you learn them gradually. You can start with a list of 5 linking words, and learn them using the Spaced Repetition System in your app. Once you’ve mastered those, add a few more.
To get to know how to use them in a sentence, watch movies or TV in English, chat with an English correspondent or language partner, and/or read articles or other short texts in English. This will help you learn how and when to use them, without getting bored, since it’s not like a textbook grammar lesson.
Doing these activities will also help you to understand the difference between formal logical connectors and those that are used in a familiar setting. Because depending on the English linking word used, people may interpret your message differently. For example, the terms moreover or furthermore are used mostly in an academic or legal context. If you use them in a normal conversation, you may come off as a bit pretentious… Some people call them “expensive words” in English.
Want to know how to pronounce these words? Or do you need some more examples of how to use them? Take a look at this video put together by Abbe, our English teacher. She gives you a list of the most commonly used English logical connectors, and some examples so that you understand how to use them.
You can watch it below or you can watch it on our YouTube channel. The video is in English, but you can turn on subtitles in English or one of 5 other languages.
Here’s a little game for you: see if you can spot all of the linking words Abbe uses in this video 😉
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Other Lessons to Help You Learn English
For more useful tips on how to improve your English, don’t miss out on these articles on English grammar:
- How to Use Grammar Checking Tools to Improve Your Writing and Speaking
- Learn English with Netflix (and other streaming platforms)
- The Best Way to Learn English Grammar