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Grammar Reference

Linking devices of cause and effect

Meaning and use

Linking devices are used to link one idea or argument to another. A common situation is when we are talking about something that happens and its result, or a cause and its effect.

  • [CAUSE] The population has increased. [EFFECT] The government is going to build more houses.

Group 1: Therefore, consequently, as a result, thus

Form

These are also called conjunctive adverbs, and they all behave in the same way. This is how we use consequently to join two ideas together. Notice the comma after consequently:

  • The population has increased. Consequently, the government is going to build more houses.

Or we could join the two sentences together using a semi-colon + consequently + comma:

  • The population has increased; consequently, the government is going to build more houses.

But you can't just add consequently without a semi-colon or comma. This is wrong:

  • The population has increased consequently the government is going to build more houses.

We can also replace consequently with any of the Group 1 words or phrases: 

  • The population has increased. As a result, the government is going to build more houses.
  • The population has increased; therefore, the government is going to build more houses.

Note

Therefore and consequently are used mainly in writing or formal speech. Thus is a little old-fashioned but is sometimes used in academic writing. That's why is very common in informal speech. In writing, we usually use it at the beginning of a sentence.

  • The traffic was terrible. That's why I'm late.

Group 2: because of, as a result of, due to, owing to

Noun phrases and participle clauses

With Group 2 linking devices, the cause part is not a whole sentence or clause, it's a noun phrase (a phrase that behaves like a noun) or participle clause (a short phrase that begins with a verb, usually in the -ing form):

  • interest rate rises (noun phrase)
  • rising interest rates (participle clause)

Form

Let's imagine a cause and effect situation: interest rate rises are the cause of price increases. This is one way we could connect them using owing to:

  • The problem has increased owing to interest rate rises.
  • The problem has increased owing to rising interest rates.

In Group 1, the linking device usually comes between the cause and effect parts. Cause is always first, and effect is second.

With Group 2, the the cause can come first or second, and the linking device moves with it. Notice that you need a comma after the linking device if it's in the first part of the sentence.

  • As a result of interest rate rises, the problem has increased.
  • The problem has increased as a result of interest rate rises.

Take note: The fact that

We can use a group 2 phrase + the fact that + a verb phrase:

  • The problem has increased owing to the fact that interest rates are rising.

Take note: as a result and as a result of

As a result is in Group 1, and as a result of is in Group 2! They look very similar but behave differently.

Pronunciation

When you start a sentence with one of these linking devices, your voice starts high and then falls. After therefore, consequently, as a result, for that reason, thus, you often pause slightly before continuing.