How to link ideas in sentences

  • When writing, it is often necessary to link ideas together.
  • Conjunctions are used to link words, phrases and clauses.
  • There are several types of conjunctions, including coordinating and subordinating conjunctions.
  • Conjunctive adverbs can also be used to link ideas in writing.
Learn how to link ideas in sentences by using coordinating conjunctions

Conjunctions are linking words. Your writing will benefit from using a variety of conjunctions, as well as using the common conjunctions ‘and’ and ‘then’.

Conjunctions should provide a smooth link between ideas. They can help you write longer sentences without sounding awkward. Conjunctions can also add clarity to your writing, especially an argument or essay.

Coordinating conjunctions

Coordinating conjunctions connect words, phrases and clauses. Clauses are the building blocks of a sentence and conjunctions can help link them together. Coordinating conjunctions are placed between the words and phrases they are linking, not at the start or end of a sentence.

There are seven coordinating conjunctions. The phrase FAN BOYS can be used to remember them:

  • For
  • And
  • Nor

  • But

  • Or
  • Yet
  • So

These conjunctions often link equal parts of the whole sentence and bring ideas together:

  • ‘Many people are trying to cut down on their plastic use, so they carry reusable shopping bags.’
  • ‘Plastic in the ocean is causing damage to animals and destroying their habitat.’

The conjunctions ‘so’ and 'and’ in the examples above link the ideas together and make the connection clear to the reader.

Coordinating conjunctions eg ‘so’ can be used to link ideas: ‘Many people are trying to cut down on their plastic use, so they carry reusable shopping bags.’

Conjunctive adverbs

Conjunctive adverbs can also be used to link ideas in your writing. They are used in a similar way to coordinating conjunctions:

  • however
  • also
  • therefore
  • meanwhile
  • nevertheless

Unlike coordinating conjunctions, conjunctive adverbs can be moved around in the sentence:

  • ‘Sam trained hard for his race; however, he didn’t achieve a personal best.’
  • ‘Sam trained hard for his race; he didn’t achieve a personal best, however.’

Notice that a semicolon is required to separate clauses when using conjunctive adverbs within a sentence.

Subordinating conjunctions

Subordinating conjunctions link two clauses together, a main clause and a subordinate clause, and help to show the relationship between the clauses.

The relationship between them could be related to the order in which something happens, expressed using a subordinating conjunction such as when, before or after.

eg Before completing the assignment, students should undertake the reading.

Here 'students should undertake the reading' is the main, or independent, clause. 'Before completing the assignment' tells us when they should do it.

They can also indicate a cause and effect relationship - when something happens because something else has happened.

For example, ‘Her hands were cold because she had forgotten her gloves.’

The cold hands have been caused by the lack of gloves - the effect of no gloves are cold hands. These conjunctions are very useful when structuring an argument, in order to show a cause and effect relationship.

Some more subordinating conjunctions used to indicate cause and effect are:

  • consequently
  • therefore

Subordinating conjunctions tend to add more information to the main part of the sentence. Clauses that start with a subordinating conjunction can also be moved to the start of the sentence, unlike coordinating conjunctions:

  • Although she was tired, she kept running.’
  • ‘ She kept running, although she was tired.’
Subordinating clauses can be used to add more information: ‘Although she was tired, she kept running.’

Comparing and contrasting conjunctions

Comparing and contrasting conjunctions link ideas that are similar or different:

  • equally
  • similarly
  • likewise
  • in comparison
  • whereas
  • in contrast
  • alternatively
  • otherwise

These conjunctions are very important if you are writing a direct comparison of two or more things:

‘Many African countries have banned plastic bags; in contrast America does not have a nationwide ban.’

Many of these conjunctions can be used to structure an overall argument, as well as link ideas within sentences. Experiment with using different types of conjunctions and see the effect they can have on your writing.

Quiz

Find out how much you know about how to link ideas in sentences in this short quiz!

Where next?

How to structure and punctuate direct speech in fiction
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How to use linguistic devices in your writing
How to write a complex sentence
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