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Constructing Sentences - Connecting Ideas

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In your writing, sentences can vary in length. Whether they are short or long, all sentences have a subject and a verb.  This guide gives you an overview on basic sentence components, sentence types, connectors, punctuation, and common sentence errors. 

Understanding the basics of how to construct a sentence will help you become a better editor and guide you in constructing clear sentences. Also, it will help you avoid writing run-on sentences and sentence fragments.

Click each tab to learn more about how to construct sentences and try the exercises in each section! If you have a question about any of the exercises, come see an English Language Tutor.

Connectors

Connectors show the relationship between the ideas in two clauses. There are 3 kinds of connectors that we use to join clauses in sentences. They are coordinatorssubordinators, and conjunctive adverbs.

Coordinators

Coordinators are used to join two independent clauses. The coordinators are andforsobutyetor and nor. Usually a comma is put before the coordinator.

Examples:

  • The office is closed for the next two days, but you can still phone to leave a message.
  • I forgot my usb, so I will have to hand in my assignment late.

Note: See the section Compound Sentences for more information. 

Subordinators

Subordinators join a dependent clause to an independent clause. Examples of subordinators are beforewhenifbecause and although. They are used before the dependent clause.

They can be used in two positions: 
 

1. The subordinator and dependent clause can come before the independent clause with a comma.

Example: When the bell rang, the students ran to the sky-train station.

2. The subordinator and dependent clause can come after the independent clause with no comma.

Example: The students ran to the sky-train station when the bell rang.

Note: See the section Complex Sentences for more information.  

Conjunctive adverbs

Conjunctive adverbs are used between two independent clauses. Examples of conjunctive adverbs are howeverbesidesnevertheless, and furthermore. After the first clause, use either a semi-colon or a period, then the conjunctive adverb, then a comma, and then the second clause.

Examples:

  • The students laughed; however, the instructor was not trying to be funny.
  • Jane wanted to take a vacation, but she took summer classes. Besides, she didn’t have enough money to go on a trip. 

Note: See the section Compound Sentences for more information. 

Meanings for Connectors

Connectors express many different relationships between ideas. This section describes different purposes for connectors. It also lists words that show each relationship and gives examples of some of those words in use.

Here are the different purposes:

  • To Add Another Idea
  • To Restate, Explain or Emphasize an Idea
  • To Give an Example
  • To Show a Choice
  • To Show a Difference
  • To Show the Opposite of What You Might Expect
  • To Show a Similarity
  • To Show a Cause or Reason
  • To Show a Result or Effect
  • To Show a Time Relationship
  • To Show a Condition


Add another idea

To add another idea

Coordinators Subordinators Conjunctive adverbs
and

furthermore

moreover

besides

also

in addition

Examples:

  • She loved that novel. It was exciting, and her favorite author wrote it.
  • I would never vote for that man for student council. He only cares about rich people; furthermore, he would do nothing to protect us against higher tuition fees.


Restate

To Restate, Explain or Emphasize an Idea

Coordinators Subordinators Conjunctive adverbs

that is

in other words

in fact

actually

namely

Examples:

  • Students should paraphrase that is, they should put the information in their own words.
  • Several students were caught plagiarizing; in fact, they copied the same essay from the internet.


Example

To Give an Example

Coordinators Subordinators Conjunctive adverbs

for example

for instance

to illustrate

Example:

  • The Amelia Douglas Art Gallery is an interesting place. For instance, one month a year it displays art created by faculty and staff from our college.


Choice

To Show a Choice

Coordinators Subordinators Conjunctive adverbs

or

nor

Example:

  • The students couldn’t strike, nor could they get their tuition fees returned.


Difference

To Show a Difference

Coordinators Subordinators Conjunctive adverbs
but

while 

whereas

though

in contrast

on the contrary

on the other hand

instead

however

still

otherwise

Examples:

  • He thinks 8:00 AM is an unreasonable time for class, but she thinks it’s fine.
  • While most students hate lab assignments, Anita Newface enjoys them.
  • Professor Witty’s classes are interesting and challenging; in contrast, Professor Standoffish’s classes are dull and boring.


Unexpected event

To Show the Opposite of What You Might Expect

Coordinators Subordinators Conjunctive adverbs
yet

although

though

even though

nevertheless

admittedly

even so

nonetheless

Examples:

  • Jesse Minnitt knows he should start on his assignment, yet he’s still watching TV.
  • Even though Clara Nett works hard, she still isn’t getting good grades.
  • Nick L. Beer knows he needs more sleep; nevertheless, he stays up late every night playing computer games.


Similarity

To Show a Similarity

Coordinators Subordinators Conjunctive adverbs

just as

as

similarly

likewise

in the same way

Examples:

  • Peter loves political science just as Rhonda loves English Literature.
  • Mae B. Knot has a great sense of humour; in the same way, her sister Dee Leerious loves a good joke.


Cause / Reason

To Show a Cause or Reason

Coordinators Subordinators Conjunctive adverbs
for

because

since

as

now that

as long as

Examples:

  • The college cancelled all the classes on Friday, for the weather was bad.
  • She decided to take Psychology because she was curious about human behaviour.


Result / Effect

To Show a Result or Effect

Coordinators Subordinators Conjunctive adverbs
so

so + adjective + that

such + …noun + that

as a result

consequently

as a consequence

therefore

thus

hence

accordingly

Examples:

  • He made a lot of mistakes, so he had to do the assignment again.
  • She was so tired that she went to bed at 8 o’clock.
  • He was such a good instructor that she told all her friends about him.
  • The drunk student made a lot of noise in the library; as a consequence, the librarians called the security guards to come and help them.


Time Relationship

To Show a Time Relationship

Coordinators Subordinators Conjunctive adverbs

before

after

when

whenever

while

as soon as

until

as

since

the moment that

once

previously

subsequently

finally

afterward

meanwhile

first, second, etc.

after that

next

since then

then,

at first

Examples:

  • She was listening to the test instructions when her cell phone rang.
  • She has studied the piano since she was a child.
  • The librarians called security; subsequently, the security guards took the drunk student outside of the campus building.


Condition

To Show a Condition

Coordinators Subordinators Conjunctive adverbs
or

if

even if

only if

as long as

unless

when

whenever

Examples:

  • We need to go now, or we will be late for the final exam.
  • We’ll have our final class party at Queen’s Park unless it rains.
  • If it rains, we’ll meet at my place, which is close to the college.

Exercise : Choosing Connectors

In this exercise, you will choose connectors that fit both the meaning of the paragraph and the punctuation given. First, read the whole paragraph to get an overall understanding of the ideas. Then do the following:

  1. Consider the questions below. 
    1. What is the relationship between the ideas?
    2. What choice/s can you use to show that relationship?
    3. Which choice/s work with the given punctuation?
  2. Write the best connector in the blank.
Peace Prize a well-deserved honour *

Kwangari Maathai, Kenyan deputy environment minister, won the Nobel Peace Prize in October 2004. This is a wonderful achievement. She is the first African woman to win the prize; (1) (furthermore/ on the other hand / but) _____________, she won the prize for doing something wonderful -- protecting the environment. Preventing environmental degradation is essential to world security and world peace, (2) (in contrast / so / actually) ____________ the recognition of the Nobel selection committee is very important. Environmentalists tend to focus on nature; (3) (as a result / nevertheless / in fact) ____________ , they must also recognize the importance of social justice and peace in protecting nature. A starving person who comes across an edible plant or animal, (4) (for instance / besides / instead) ________________, will not pause and wonder whether it is endangered. (5) (In the same way / On the contrary / If) ______________, those living without justice or under conditions of terror, genocide or war, must worry about survival above all. (6) (In addition / So / Consequently) ____________, these issues must also be addressed (7) (if / since / just as) __________ we are to protect nature. Droughts, extreme weather events, expanding disease vectors and the scarcity of fresh water are some of the expected problems in the future.  These stresses will create “environmental refugees” and conflicts over natural resources. (8) (When / On the contrary / As a consequence) ____________, environmental issues are essential to world security and world peace. Environmental security and national security are intricately connected. (9) (However / Likewise / Whereas) ________________, environmental health and public health cannot be separated.

*Adapted Excerpts from Suzuki, D. (10/15/2004) "Peace Prize a well-deserved honour." Vancouver, BC: David Suzuki Foundation.  Permission to adapt granted from davidsuzuki.org.

Peace Prize a well-deserved honour *

Kwangari Maathai, Kenyan deputy environment minister, won the Nobel Peace Prize in October 2004. This is a wonderful achievement. She is the first African woman to win the prize; (1) (furthermore/ on the other hand / but) furthermore, she won the prize for doing something wonderful -- protecting the environment. Preventing environmental degradation is essential to world security and world peace, (2) (in contrast / so / actually) so the recognition of the Nobel selection committee is very important. Environmentalists tend to focus on nature; (3) (as a result / nevertheless / in fact) nevertheless, they must also recognize the importance of social justice and peace in protecting nature. A starving person who comes across an edible plant or animal, (4) (for instance / besides / instead) for instance, will not pause and wonder whether it is endangered. (5) (In the same way / On the contrary / If) In the same way, those living without justice or under conditions of terror, genocide or war, must worry about survival above all. (6) (In addition / So / Consequently) Consequently, these issues must also be addressed (7) (if / since / just as) if we are to protect nature. Droughts, extreme weather events, expanding disease vectors and the scarcity of fresh water are some of the expected problems in the future.  These stresses will create “environmental refugees” and conflicts over natural resources. (8) (When / On the contrary / As a consequence) As a consequence, environmental issues are essential to world security and world peace. Environmental security and national security are intricately connected. (9) (However / Likewise / Whereas) Likewise, environmental health and public health cannot be separated.

*Adapted Excerpts from Suzuki, D. (10/15/2004) "Peace Prize a well-deserved honour." Vancouver, BC: David Suzuki Foundation.  Permission to adapt granted from davidsuzuki.org.