Transition Words

What Are Transition Words?

Transition words are bridges that link sentences. They are used to carry your thoughts from one sentence to the next. They are used only between sentences, including the last sentence of one paragraph and the first of the next. The job of transition words is to ensure that the ideas in your sentences and paragraphs connect logically and smoothly. Some transition words are one word, but many are phrases. Typically, they are placed at the start of sentences but not always. For example:
  • Jack likes sweet food. However, Jill likes savoury dishes.
  • Jack likes sweet food. Jill, however, Jill likes savoury dishes.
  • Jack likes sweet food. On the other hand, Jill likes savoury dishes.
  • Jack likes sweet food. Jill, on the other hand, Jill likes savoury dishes.
The purpose of the transition words in these examples ("however" and "on the other hand") is to show that the relationship between sentences is one of "opposition." ("Opposition" is a common linking category. There are many others categories, which are listed below.)

Table of Contents

  • Linking Categories
  • The Scope of the Term "Transition Words"
  • Punctuating Transition Words
  • Test Time!
transition words examples

Linking Categories

Here are the 9 linking categories with commonly used transition words for each one:

(1) Addition

  • additionally, also, further, furthermore, in addition, moreover, next

(2) Opposition

  • alternatively, although, by contrast, conversely, despite x, even if x is true, however, in contrast, in spite of x, nevertheless, on the other hand, whereas, yet

(3) Comparison

  • although x may be true, by comparison, compared with x, in comparison, in the same way, likewise

(4) Analysis

  • accordingly, as a result of x, as a result, as evidenced by x, as x illustrates, consequently, evidently, for the same reason, for this reason, hence, obviously, owing to x, resultantly, therefore, thus

(5) Time

  • formerly, in the meantime, occasionally, on occasion, presently, previously, sometimes, thereafter

(6) Sequence

  • concurrently, consequently, first or firstly, following this, last or lastly, next, previously, second or secondly, simultaneously, subsequently, then, third or thirdly

(7) Repetition

  • as has been noted, as I have noted, as I have said, as previously stated, in other words, more simply

(8) Example

  • as an illustration, as exemplified by x, for example, for instance, in this case, namely, notably, to demonstrate x, to illustrate x

(9) Summary

  • after analysis, as a result, consequently, hence, in any event, in brief, in conclusion, on the whole, on the whole, overall, summing up, therefore, to conclude, to sum up, to summarize

The Scope of the Term "Transition Words"

Here at Grammar Monster, we define transition words as words or phrases that bridge ideas between sentences. For example:
  • I am allergic to garlic. As a result, I do not eat curry.
  • ("As a result" is a transitional phrase that links the sentences. It is from the "analysis" category.)
On occasion, transition words might bridge ideas between independent clauses, but only when a semicolon has been used to create a smooth transition between two "sentences" (thereby turning the sentences into independent clauses). For example:
  • I am allergic to garlic; as a result, I do not eat curry.
Be aware that some others classify transitional words as any words that link ideas in any sentence structure. Here is an example from Grammarly, showing "while" as a transition word:
  • While Shekani is a stickler for tradition, Mei gives every holiday party a new twist.
In this example, "while" is a subordinating conjunction. (Subordinating conjunctions link dependent clauses to independent clauses and have categories like the ones listed above.) At Grammar Monster, we do not classify subordinating conjunctions as transition words. However, bear in mind that some do. If you have a view on this, please let us know.

Conjunctive Adverbs

In English grammar, "transition words" are also known as conjunctive adverbs. This is a useful term because it explains the role of transition words.

"Conjunctive" means "forming a connection," and adverbs are used to tell us information such as how, when, where, why, under what conditions, and under what concessions things happen. In short, "conjunctive adverb" means "explaining joiner," and that is a good way to think about transition words.

The term "transition words" is also useful because they literally transition ideas between sentences.

Punctuating Transition Words

Most transition words appear at the start of a sentence. As a result, they typically start with a capital letter. Transition words are then followed by a comma to group them as a single adverb and to mark the start of the main clause. For example:
  • The airline lost my suitcase. As a consequence, I wore jeans to the meeting.
  • The airline lost my suitcase. However, I was well compensated.
  • (The overwhelming majority of your transition words should be punctuated like this.)
When smoother transitions are required, semicolons can be used before transition words. For example:
  • The airline lost my suitcase; as a consequence, I wore jeans to the meeting.
  • The airline lost my suitcase; however, I was well compensated.
  • (Use semicolons sparingly. They get annoying quickly.)
Sometimes, transition words can appear mid-sentence. When this happens, offset them with two commas. For example:
  • The airline lost my suitcase; I wore, as a consequence, jeans to the meeting.
  • The airline lost my suitcase; I was, however, well compensated.
Do not use a comma before transition words at the start of a sentence. This is common mistake, especially with the word "however."
  • The airline lost my suitcase, as a consequence, I wore jeans to the meeting. wrong cross
  • The airline lost my suitcase, however, I was well compensated. wrong cross
  • (Using a comma before transition words at the start of a sentence creates an error called a run-on sentence.)
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This page was written by Craig Shrives.