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Linking Sentences, Clauses and Phrases

We have considered linking signals within a sentence so far. These are words used by people to indicate how they organise their speech in order to present their ideas clearly but also with style.

Now we shall spend some time looking at how these words can help us connect sentences, i.e. the organisation of connections between sentences.

We consider a clause (the unit which may express a thought) as the basic unit of meaning in discourse (in speech). Clauses put together form sentences and these are, in turn of various types. If you’re not familiar with the type of sentences we can have in English, I suggest you review our lesson on sentences first.

So, how do we put clauses together?

Grammar provides three main ways of putting clauses together:

[A] COORDINATION: we do this by using the conjunctions 'and', 'or', 'but', 'both… and', etc.

[B] SUBORDINATION: is achieved by using conjunctions such as: 'when', 'if', 'because', etc.

[C] ADVERBIAL LINK: we can also link two ideas by using a linking sentence adverbial, like: 'yet', 'moreover' and 'meanwhile'

Let’s look at an example, and for this we shall use the idea of a contrast:


"The concert continued but my friend stopped listening."


"The author included some controversial examples in his third chapter, although he was warned by his editor to avoid these."


"Most of the students were studying in the library. Meanwhile, John decided to visit his uncle instead."

Note: for a stronger and more emphatic link, occasionally we find a combination of a sentence adverbial with coordination or subordination.

[A] + [C]: "He was extremely tired, but he was nevertheless unable to sleep until after midnight."

[B] + [C]: "Although she was interested in collecting stamps, yet because of the costly nature of this hobby, she opted for gathering dried flowers instead."

Which do you use, when?

So, how do we choose between coordination, subordination and linking adverbials?

[1] Coordination is often less emphatic and vaguer, therefore it provides a ‘looser’ connection than the others. We use coordination more in informal than in formal style. This type of linking two sentences is preferred for sentences at the same level, in other words they will be perceived to be of the same value, for example they are both main sentences.

[2] Subordination tends to make a sentence a less important part in the information conveyed by a sentence. We use this type of linking when we subordinate one sentence to the main sentence, in other words, one sentence will not have a complete meaning without the other one – a little bit like a branch with the tree it belongs to.

[3] Adverbial links are often used to connect longer stretches of language, perhaps whole sentences which themselves contain coordinate or subordinate clauses.

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