English 1301 Whitson
Function words are those little words we use so automatically that we’re unconscious of their presence.
However, they are just as important a signal as punctuation. Sometimes even used with punctuation,
they introduce phrases, connect clauses, make comparisons and clarify the direction of thought.
Innocuous as they may be, they must be used correctly in order to give the proper signal to a writer’s
audience. Below is a helpful list of function words—conjunctions, transitional expressions, comparative
connectors, and prepositions.
These are used to connect sentence parts (words, phrases, dependent clauses) & independent clauses.
When they connect entire independent clauses, a comma usually accompanies the conjunction to
separate the clauses.
These are used to connect sentence parts and independent clauses:
and (addition) but, yet (contrast) or (choice) nor (no choice)
These are used to connect only independent clauses: for (cause) so (effect)
These always appear in pairs and are used in the same way as are coordinating conjunctions—to
connect sentence parts and/or independent clauses.
either, or neither, nor both, and not only, but also
These are used to connect independent clauses. The first independent clause is always followed by a
semicolon, and the conjunctive adverb—whether it is placed at the beginning, in the middle, or at the end
of the second independent clause—is set off with a comma or commas.
Add a point: also, again, furthermore, in addition, moreover
Make a contrast: however, instead, nevertheless, otherwise, still
Make a comparison: likewise, similarly
Show a result or conclusion: accordingly, consequently, hence, therefore, thus
These are used to connect adverb dependent clauses to an independent clause. The conjunction always
appears as the first word of the dependent clause. Commas always set off adverb dependent clauses
from the main clause unless the adverb clause follows the main clause (exceptions that usually require
commas even in this case include although, even though, provided that, providing that). Several of these
words serve double duty, functioning sometimes as prepositions (see # marker) and sometimes as
subordinating conjunctions. Occasionally subordinating conjunctions introduce adjective dependent
clauses (see * marker).
after # even though providing (that) until #
although how since # when *
as # if so (that) whenever
as if in order that than where *
as . . . as now that though wherever
because once till whether
before # provided (that) unless while
While some of these words serve double duty, sometimes as demonstrative or interrogative pronouns,
they are also used to introduce both noun and adjective dependent clauses. The conjunction is almost
always the first word in the dependent clause and usually functions as a noun within the dependent
clause (subject, direct object, subject complement, indirect object, object of a preposition). Noun clauses
are subject to the same punctuation rules as single-word nouns or noun phrases; adjective clauses are
not set off with commas if the clause is restrictive and are set off with commas if the clause is
who, whoever, whom, whomever, which, whichever, whose, that, what, whatever
TRANSITION WORDS & PHRASES
Transition words and phrases usually don’t perform a grammatical function within a sentence. They are
often situated at the beginning of or inside a sentence to indicate direction of thought or to show how
ideas in one sentence are related to ideas in another sentence. Wherever they are located, when their
only purpose is transition, they are usually set off with a comma or commas.
anyhow certainly in general of course
anyway even so in other words on the contrary
above all first in short on the one hand
after all first of all in sum on the other hand
as a result for example in the second place to begin
at any rate indeed last to be sure
at the same time in addition meanwhile to conclude
besides in brief namely to illustrate
by comparison in conclusion next second, third, etc.
by the way in fact no doubt specifically
Like the parts of a compound structure, the two or more parts of a comparison are joined with certain
connecting words. Also like compound structures, the items that are compared must be parallel—that is,
be of the same part of speech with the same function within the sentence.
not, as well as, rather than, less than, more than, from___to___, instead of
NEXT PAGE FOR PREPOSITIONS
Prepositions introduce prepositional phrases. Like any other phrase, a prepositional phrase is a group of
words that fit together meaningfully but do not have both a subject and a verb. A prepositional phrase
usually functions as an adverb or adjective modifier and adds descriptive detail that cannot be stated in
just one word. The phrase begins with a preposition (Pp) and ends with an object (Op), usually a noun,
pronoun, or verbal noun. Words that may appear between the preposition and its object are single-word
adjectives that modify the object of the preposition.
Adverb prepositional phrases tell when, where, why, how, or to what extent about a verb. In the example
below, the adverb prepositional phrase tells where about the verb hid.
Example: Linda hid the key under the carpet.
Adjective prepositional phrases tell which, which one, what kind of, or whose about a noun. In the
example below, the adjective prepositional phrase tells which about the noun dress.
Example: The dress with the red sequin trim dazzled admirers.
aboard before except out under
about behind for outside underneath
above below from over unlike
across beneath in past until
after beside inside per up
against between into regarding upon
along beyond like round via
amid by near since with
among concerning next to through within
around despite of throughout
as down off to
at during on toward
Some prepositions, called phrasal prepositions, contain more than one word.
Example: Except for day one, the trip challenged all the hikers.
according to contrary to in spite of
along with due to instead of
apart from except for out of
as for in accordance with such as
as to in addition to together with
as well as in case of up to
because of in front of with reference to
by means of in lieu of with regard to
by reason of in place of with respect to
by way of in regard to with the exception of