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Transition Words | Page 4

Conjunctive Adverbs as Transition Words

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On the previous page, you saw how subordinating conjunctions are used to combine ideas into sentences by embedding a subordinate clause into a main clause.

You also saw that subordinating conjunctions allow you to express more relationships than you can with coordinating conjunctions alone.


Conjunctive adverbs work a bit differently. They show the relationships between separate sentences rather than within the same sentence. In addition, they make it possible to express even more relationships.

What Adverbs Are

Before jumping right into conjunctive adverbs, let’s brush up on what an adverb is. Adverbs or adverbial phrases are words or expressions that modify a verb, adjective, another adverb, or a whole idea.

In the examples sentences below, the adverbs are in bold.

  1. Good students arrive in class early, work hard during the lesson, and leave on time.
    (these adverbs modify the verbs)
  2. He finished the project in a hurry. (the whole phrase works as an adverb modifying the verb)
  3. I can’t stay very long.
    (“long” modifies the verb, and “very” modifies “long”)
  4. Unfortunately, Professor Ecks had already left when I arrived.
    (“unfortunately” is an adverb of evaluation that modifies the whole sentence; “when I arrived” is an adverbial dependent clause that works just as an adverb)

You can tell from the above examples, that adverbs also have different functions. They can be categorized based on the idea they convey as adverbs of time, manner, place, frequency, duration, degree, and so on.

In Sentence 1, “early” is an adverb of time (when students should arrive), “hard” is an adverb of manner (how they should work), and “on time” is a phrase working as an adverb of time.

In Sentence 3, “unfortunately” modifies the whole sentence and expresses an idea of evaluation of the statement.

What Conjunctive Adverbs Are

Conjunctive adverbs are used as transition words in that they connect whole ideas, sentences, even paragraphs together and show the relationship between them. In that sense, they work similarly to adverbs because they “modify” or add information to such ideas, sentences, or paragraphs.

They differ from the other types of transitions we have seen so far in this lesson because they are not limited to connecting two ideas (as with coordinating conjunctions) or to embedding an idea into another sentence (as with subordinating conjunctions) but are free to connect any number of ideas (even ideas that are far apart in a written text).

The conjunctive adverb is highlighted in bold in the examples below. For those using screen readers, the conjunctive verbs will be highlighted before the example sentences.

Example 1

In this sentence, the conjunctive adverb is “as a result.”

You were late almost every day and rarely offered to help your co-workers; as a result, you will not get the promotion.

Note that the first part of the sentence was completed, and it could stand on its own. The semicolon is used to show that the sentence is over... but not quite, because it has additional information. The conjunctive adverb “as a result” bridges the two parts of the sentence and shows the relationship between them, that is, a result or consequence.

Example 2

Compare this to the first example.

In this example, the conjunctive adverbs are “in addition” and “consequently.”

You were late almost every day and rarely offered to help your co-workers. Sometimes you knew people needed help, but you never offered to help. In addition, your overall attitude needs work as you often got into altercations with coworkers and even clients. Consequently, you will not get the promotion.

This paragraph starts with two ideas in separate sentences. The conjunctive adverb “in addition” shows that more information is added to them.

As a conjunctive adverb, “consequently” connects all the preceding information to the final statement.

If you had two short ideas such as (1) “You were a terrible employee” and (2) “You will not get the promotion,” you could use a simple coordinating conjunction as in (3)  “You were a terrible employee, so you will not get the promotion.”

You could also use a subordinating conjunction as in (4) “You will not get the promotion because you were a terrible employee.”

Coordinating and subordinating conjunctions cannot handle it when you have much more information to connect. Conjunctive adverbs are needed in such a situation.

Short List of Conjunctive Adverbs

Here are just a few conjunctive adverbs (or phrases that work as conjunctive adverbs):

at the same time
for example
for instance
in addition
in any case
in conclusion
in short
on the contrary
on the other hand
that is
to the contrary
to sum up
without a doubt

Example Sentences Using Conjunctive Adverbs

  • Bananas are inexpensive and easy to find in any grocery store. Besides, they are easy to consume and nutritious. As a result, bananas are a popular, healthy snack worldwide.
  • When the job applicants entered the room, they were asked to complete several forms and wait to be called on. Afterwards, each of them entered the room where they were interviewed.
  • Teachers work long hours at their schools. When they go home, they often bring papers to grade. In addition, they are required to plan lessons, create materials and tests, and meet with students about their performance. You would think that they make a lot of money. On the contrary, they often have to take part-time jobs to make ends meet.
  • Many people were afraid that their cell phones could cause brain cancer. A study had been published linking the amount of time people spend on their cell phones and the incidence of brain cancer. However, subsequent studies could not replicate these results. These studies were published contesting the results of the first study years ago. Nonetheless, people are still reacting to the first study despite evidence to the contrary.

Up Next: Other (Cool) Devices

Some devices are too cool for school. They are sophisticated transitions you typically do not learn in school.

Continue the lesson to learn about other devices used as transitions.