Glossary: connective


'Connective' is an old term that has been widely used by teachers for words that can connect units of information in various ways. These include words like however, so and nonetheless, and because, although and after.

In most contemporary discussions of grammar, and in the 2014 National Curriculum, the term 'connective' is not used because the words that have been given this label belong grammatically to different word classes. Instead, we distinguish between subordinating conjunctions, coordinating conjunctions and certain types of adverbs.

Subordinating conjunctions place one clause in a lower (subordinate) relationship to another.

  • He is only six years old, although he is very tall.
  • They devoured the cookies because they were hungry.

On the other hand, coordinating conjunctions link two units of an equal status:

  • novels and plays
  • fast but unsafe

Finally, words that connect sentences or clauses more loosely in terms of their meaning are called (linking) adverbs:

  • Everyone loves vacations in Hawaii. Nevertheless, I would never want to go there myself.
  • I have lots of friends, so I'm very happy.

Note that the adverbs above can be omitted, and the result would still be a grammatical sentence. The conjunctions in the first two examples cannot be omitted without the result becoming a "run-on" sentence. This is just one very good reason why these two types of connective words (conjunctions and adverbs) are not part of a single grammatical category.

Although the label 'connective' can be useful as a general notion that encourages students to think about how they might connect one piece of information to another, we would strongly encourage you to avoid it.

See also Adverbial.

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