What do you think is the biggest problem I see with my students’ English essays? Well, if you have read the title of this blog post you will have guessed that it is incorrect use, or lack of use of linking words and phrases.
Using linkers correctly is the biggest single thing that most English learners can do to vastly improve their essay writing, so let’s take a look at some of these linkers and at how we should be using them when writing in English.
Function of the linking words in English
Different linkers have different functions (here is a comprehensive list of linkers) and the functions usually relate to joining two ideas together. Let’s look today though at joining two contrasting ideas together. For example:
+ The President built himself a new palace – The country was bankrupt.
– Several of their key players were injured. + Manchester United won the league.
As you can see our ‘contrasting’ function here connects a positive statement with a negative one and there are several linking words and phrases we can use to join these two ideas into one statement:
but, However, Although, despite (the fact that), In spite of (the fact that), Nevertheless,
On the contrary, on the one hand, on the other hand, whereas, while, but while,
So let’s look at how we can link our contrasting ideas, using our words from the box.
The country was bankrupt, but the President still built himself a new palace.
The country was bankrupt. However, the President still built himself a new palace.
Although the country was bankrupt, the President still built himself a new palace.
OK, well those were quite easy weren’t they? So let’s look at the two which often cause problems for people – despite and in spite of. How can we use these correctly? You need to remember these formulas:
Despite/in spite of + noun + main clause ie
Despite/in spite of several injuries, Manchester United still won the league.
Despite/in spite of + verb ing + main clause ie
Despite/in spite of having several injuries, Manchester United still won the league.
Despite/inspite of + the fact that + verb phrase + main clause ie
Despite/in spite of the fact that several of their key players were injured, Manchester United still won the league.
So, you can see that when using these two linkers, some word transformations may be required, but if you remember the structure, you shouldn’t have any problems.
Our final linker is nevertheless and works in the same way as however.
The country was bankrupt. Nevertheless, the President still built himself a new palace.
If what we need to do, is to compare and contrast then we need to use different linkers. Imagine that we want to compare a large country such as Germany and a small country such as Luxemburg. We can do it like this:
While Germany is very large, Luxemburg is quite small.
Germany is very large, whereas Luxemburg is quite small.
And finally, if we want to compare for example advantages and disadvantages of something, we can use:
On the one hand, living in the city gives you access to many great facilities but on the other hand cities are often noisy and polluted.
Well, I hope that this post has helped to make some of these tricky linkers a bit clearer for you – you’ve seen the theory, now it is up to you to put it into practice and use them in your English essays. Don’t forget to visit some of our other posts to get further help in improving your English. Some of our recent topics include how to organize better your English study or how to learn English through reading. In addition, you can improve your vocabulary list with idioms or synonyms for both of the topics we have written a post.
English students, who are interested in improving their academic or exam English writing may like to visit and work on with transitional words for TOEFL iBT. At conclusion, we provide you with some short lists of English linkers in the pictures below.