Category Archives: Sentences

Transition Signals in Use

In today’s post, I shall demonstrate how transition signals are used.

(a) to add information:

  • in addition, furthermore, moreover, besides, in fact

Examples:

  1. Tommy was promoted, finally. In addition, he also received a cash reward of $500 as an incentive.
  2. You cannot go out today. Besides, it’s probably going to rain cats and dogs later.

(b) to contrast information:

  • on the other hand, in contrast, nevertheless, on the contrary, despite, however

Examples:

  1. John’s a stingy person. On the other hand his brother is a philanthropist.
  2. I’ve read “Harry Potter” before. Nevertheless I still find watching the movie as exciting as reading it.
  3. Despite being a disabled, Steven Hawking became one of the most brilliant and highly-respected scientists ever.

(c) to compare information:

  • similarly, likewise, in the same way

Examples:

  1. When you’re at the theatre, you have to be silent. Similarly you do the same in the cinema.
  2. There has been keen interest in recent natural calamities. Likewise, interest in books on prophecy has increased.

(d) to order information by time:

  • after that, before that, then, at first, firstly, secondly, next, lastly, eventually, finally

Examples:

  1. At first, he said that he couldn’t recall what happened. Then he told the police that he was clobbered on the head by a man with a scar on his face.
  2. Suhaimi made many attempts to call the hospital. Finally he managed to get through the emergency unit.

(e) to show cause or effect:

  • as a result, consequently, therefore, thus, hence

Examples:

  1. The employee worked extremely hard. As a result, he became so ill that he couldn’t work anymore.
  2. Peter Parker was bitten by a radioactive spider, hence his alter-ego is called Spiderman.

(f) to show concession:

  • of course, naturally

Examples:

  1. You are not allowed to copy. Of course, that doesn’t mean you can’t move from your seat.
  2. When they’re alone, they miss home a lot. Naturally, they want to live with their parents.

(g) to conclude:

  • in conclusion, to summarise
  1. In conclusion, smoking causes not only health but financial problems, too.
  2. To summarise, students prefer studying locally as they’re able to be closer to home, spend less and help boost the economy.

(h) to exemplify information:

  • for example, for instance

Examples:

  1. There are a few important rules to follow when you visit Malaysia. For example, offering bribes is a crime and smuggling drugs could put you behind bars.
  2. Nobody likes you because of your attitude. For instance, you don’t care, you’re lazy and you’re selfish.

Here’s what you would get if you use transition signals too liberally:

We were unable to watch a movie today. It was too crowded. In addition, the tickets have all been sold out. Besides, I don’t think it was a good movie. In addition, my friend has already bought the CD. Therefore, we could watch at home. Then, my friend and I went shopping instead. Then, we stopped by the handphone shop to get a top-up card. After that, we ate some snacks at Burger King. However, the burgers were too small. For instance, we could finish our burgers in just one bite. Of course, we were hungry, but we were also on a strict diet. In conclusion, we didn’t enjoy our day.

Can you count how many are there? 😀  – so remember, do not OVERUSE transition signals or your paragraph would appear to be strange.

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Transition Signals

Transition signals are not related to physics or astronomy. These are words that are used when we want to connect one sentence with another to show a continuity of ideas, and to show a smooth flow (transition) from one sentence and paragraph to the next. Transition signals have the following functions:

(a) to add information:

  • in addition, furthermore, moreover, besides, in fact

(b) to contrast information:

  • on the other hand, in contrast, nevertheless, on the contrary, despite, however

(c) to compare information:

  • similarly, likewise, in the same way

(d) to order information by time:

  • after that, before that, then, at first, firstly, secondly, next, lastly, eventually, finally

(e) to show cause or effect:

  • as a result, consequently, therefore, thus, hence

(f) to show concession:

  • of course, naturally

(g) to conclude:

  • in conclusion, to summarise

(h) to exemplify information:

  • for example, for instance

It is important to note that you should never overuse transition signals just because you have learnt it, or you believe that it makes your paragraph more interesting. Use transition signals sparingly and naturally. I shall provide some examples on the usage in the next post.

Faulty Modifiers

Modifiers are words, phrases or clauses that give more information about another word in the sentence. Modifiers most often are placed next to the word it modifies. Modifiers answer the questions where, why, when, who, how and what. Here are some examples. The modifiers are in red:

  • There is a little boy at the bus stop (where).
  • Because Jimmy was late (why), he missed the last bus.
  • Jane went jogging after doing her chores (when).
  • My neighbour, who is a policeman (who), is not a helpful person.
  • The boy cried loudly (how) when he was hit by a sharp object.
  • The aardvark, a tame animal (what), feeds on ants and other insects.

Notice that in all the examples above, the modifiers are placed next to the phrase it modifies.

Faulty Modifiers

(a) Dangling modifiers

Now, look at this sentence:

  • While talking on the phone, the doorbell rang. (X)

The sentence appears to be correct, but it’s not. What is wrong with that sentence? Who is talking on the phone – you or the doorbell? The sentence above shows that the doorbell was talking on the phone. It doesn’t make sense! The phrase “while talking on the phone” appears to be dangling, and does not correctly modify the phrase “the doorbell rang”. This error is a dangling modifier.

Here is the correct sentence.

  • While I was talking on the phone (who), the doorbell rang. (√)

So, in this sentence, who was talking on the phone? Me.

(b) Misplaced modifiers

Sometimes, modifiers are wrongly placed in a sentence. Therefore, the sentence does not convey the message correctly, or it could be humourous. Check out these sentences:

  1. We read that Janet was married in her last letter. (X)
    In her last letter, we read that Janet was married. (√)
  2. I almost listened to the whole album. (X)
    I listened to almost the whole album. (√)

In Example #1,  it seems that Janet was married in her letter. This is ridiculous; it’s funny because you cannot marry in a letter.  In Example #2, the sentence “I almost listened…” means that you wanted to listen but you did not in the end. If this is not what you are trying to say, then you have to correct it.

In both examples, the modifiers at at the wrong place, thus modifier errors like these are misplaced modifiers. To correct misplaced modifiers, just move the modifiers next to the words or phrases that they modify.

Independent & Dependent Clauses

Independent clause

An independent clause is also called a main clause. It is a complete sentence, which means it has a subject and a verb. It expresses a complete idea or a complete though.

Example:

  • Michael gets a raise.

In the example above, “Michael” is the subject while “gets” is the verb. Do you understand the sentence? Yes, it’s perfectly clear.

Dependent clause

A dependent clause is also called a subordinate clause. It is an incomplete sentence. Although some dependent clauses have a subject and a verb, the sentences do not contain a complete idea. The sentences appear to be “hanging”.

Example:

  • Because he works hard.

In the example above, do you understand the sentence?  No, because it doesn’t make sense. You know that something is missing, and the sentence is incomplete or hanging although there is a subject and a verb.

Look at this example.

  • Micheal gets a raise because he works hard.

Now, the whole sentence is meaningful by combining the independent clause with the dependent clause. The sentence could also be written like this without changing its meaning:

  • Because Michael works hard, he gets a raise.

What’s the difference? The difference is, in the second sentence, it begins with a dependent clause, and there is a comma before the independent clause is added.

Other examples:

  • You can help me clean the house since you’re here.
    Since you’re here, you can help me clean the house.
  • Tell me when the plane arrives.
    When the plane arrives, (you) tell me.
  • Peter must turn right after he crosses the road.
    After Peter crosses the road, he must turn right.

IMPORTANT: You have to be careful when you use words like unless, when, after, although, if, whenever, even if and other subordinating conjunctions. These conjunctions are used in dependent clauses, so such clauses cannot stand on their own. They need to be joined with an independent clause. Therefore, it is wrong to write the following sentences:

  1. Get me some vegetables. If you go to the grocery store. (X)
  2. I need a long rest. Because I’ve been working over 12 hours. (X)
  3. We will go out and play. Unless it rains heavily. (X)
  4. There will be trouble. Whenever that kid is in the neighbourhood. (X)

Can you correct the mistakes?

Run-on

A run-on is a sentence error where two or more sentences are joined together without a punctuation. This type of error is sometimes called a fused sentence.

(a) Fused Sentence

Example:

  • A doctor’s job is difficult he has to be in the hospital for 24-hours when he is on call. (X)
    A doctor’s job is difficult. He has to be in the hospital for 24-hours when he is on call. (√)

In order to identify the mistake, you have to look for a complete sentence first. Then only you fit in the punctuation marks. In the example above, “A doctor’s job is difficult” is a complete sentence – it follows the sentence pattern rules.

(b) Comma Splice

Another type of run-on error is called comma splice. In a comma splice, two or more sentences are connected with a comma but without a coordinating conjunction.

Example:

  • John promised to come on time, he actually did. (X)
    John promised to come on time, and he actually did. (√)

In a comma splice, you need to look for the complete sentence, too. You then add the coordinating conjunction after the comma. In the above example, “John promised to come on time” is a complete sentence.

Fragment

Fragments are incomplete sentences that have been disconnected from the independent clause (or main clause). Fragments are dependent clauses (or subordinate clauses) because they cannot stand on their own without a subject or a verb. Therefore, fragments do not make much sense. Look at the following:

Examples:

  1. Since we have never met before. I shall introduce myself.
  2. When they arrive. We shall have lunch.
  3. After he lost the match. The tennis player threw his racquet.
  4. Because he has never been to this part of town before. He lost his way to my house.

The dependent clauses are highlighted in red. The errors above appear to be too obvious to some of us, but I have seen many of my students making such mistakes in their essays.  You can correct fragments by removing the period and substituting it with a comma.  So the five sentences above should be corrected as follows:

  1. Since we have never met before, I shall introduce myself.
  2. When they arrive, we shall have lunch.
  3. After he lost the match, the tennis player threw his racquet.
  4. Because he has never been to this part of town before, he lost his way to my house.

Alternatively, the sentences above could also be written without a comma, but the sentences must begin with independent clauses. See what happens here:

  1. I shall introduce myself since we have never met before.
  2. We shall have lunch when they arrive.
  3. The tennis player threw his racquet after he lost the match.
  4. He lost his way to my house because he has never been to this part of town before.

As you can see, commas are not needed in each of the four sentences because the sentences begin with a complete sentence (an independent clause) as highlighted in blue. The meaning of each sentence is exactly the same.

Parallelism

Parallelism – also known as parallel structure – has nothing to do with our body structure, but it has plenty to do with sentence structure, particularly in relation to the balance of words or phrases in a sentence. Errors in parallelism is called faulty parallelism. When faulty parallelism occurs, words and phrases are incorrectly joined. The usual way to join parallel structures is with the use of coordinating conjunctions such as and or or. Here are some examples:

Examples of faulty parallelism:

  1. He eats, drinks and will also watch television at the same time. (X)
    He eats, drinks and watches television at the same time. (√)
  2. Either you go home or you have to wait here. (X)
    Either you go home or wait here. (√).
  3. The CSI team prepared the report of the crime scene quickly, accurately and in a detailed manner. (X)
    The CSI team examined the report of the crime scene quickly, accurately and thoroughly. (√)

Identifying faulty parallelism:

With a keen eye, and sufficient knowledge in parallel structure, identifying errors in parallelism is easy. There are ways in which faulty parallelism could occur:

(a) In a series of three or more items in a sentence

Example 1:

  • They bought a pen, a notepad and ruler. (X)
    They bought a pen, a notepad and a ruler. (√) OR
    They bought a pen, notepad and ruler. (√)

In the above example, there are three items – pen, notepad and ruler. The article “a” is not properly placed.  To correct the problem, either include the article for all items or write it before the first item. The same rule applies if you wish to use prepositions and pronouns. See the following example:

Example 2:

  • His parents, cousins and his relatives all had a picnic by the beach last week. (X)
    His parents, his cousins and his relatives all had a picnic by the beach last week. (√) OR
    His
    parents, cousins and relatives all had a picnic by the beach last week. (√)

In the example above, the pronoun “his” should appear either in all items or in only one item.

(b) Gerunds and infinitives (to)

Examples:

  • There’s no point rushing and to drive home at peak hour. (X)
    There’s no point rushing and driving home at peak hour. (√)
  • Reading and to watch horror movies are some of his interests. (X)
    Reading and watching horror movies are some of his interests. (√)
  • He’s going up the stage to sing, dance and to show some magic. (X)
    He’s going up the stage to sing, to dance and to show some magic. (√)

(c) Adverb and adverb phrases

Examples:

  • The speaker spoke gently and in a polite manner. (X)
    The speaker spoke gently and politely. (√)
  • Our neighbour talked to us loudly and in an angry tone. (X)
    Our neighbour talked to us loudly and angrily. (√)
  • The officer attended to our requests professionally and with great efficiency. (X)
    The officer attended to our requests professionally and efficiently. (√)

(d) Comparative structures

Comparative structures come in pairs. For instance: the more… the better, the more… the easier, the younger… the more beautiful etc. Notice that the article the is in pairs, too. Look at the following errors and see how they are corrected.

Examples:

  • The more you practise, you’ll be better. (X)
    The more you practise, the better you’ll be. (√)

As you can see from this example, the structure needs to be changed a little. Here are other examples:

  • The longer I wait, I’ll be more impatient. (X)
    The longer I wait, the more impatient I’ll be. (√)
  • The sooner you see a doctor, you’ll recover faster. (X)
    The sooner you see a doctor, the faster you’ll recover. (√)

Sentence Patterns

Sentences in the English language comprises six patterns. The patterns are the rules that show where words should be positioned in the sentence. Therefore, if you do not follow the patterns, your sentences will be incorrect.

The Basic Sentence Patterns:

Subject + Verb

  • They + swim.
  • It + works.

Subject + Verb + Direct Object

  • He + goes + home.
  • They + bought + a house.

Subject + Auxiliary Verb + Complement

  • The two children + are playing + in the park.
  • Cars + can be + killing machines.

Subject + Verb +  Indirect Object + Direct Object

  • John + told + me + a spooky story.
  • The university + sent + you + an application form.

Subject + Verb + Direct Object + Object Complement

  • The supervisor + found + the building + (to be) full of defects.
  • Workers + consider + the new equipment + (to be) a great help.
  • Americans + elected + Obama + (to be) president on 20 January 2009.

Subject-verb Agreement

Every sentence must have a verb. In addition, the verb must agree with the subject. A singular subject requires a singular verb, while a plural subject requires a plural verb.

The basics

Subject

Verb

I

am / have / go / see / read …

you
we
they
both

are / have / go / see / read …

he
she
it
everyone
anyone
nobody
each
neither…nor
neither…nor

is/ has / goes / sees / reads …

Examples:

  1. I’m walking to school today.
  2. You have to study hard.
  3. Squirrels love to eat nuts.
  4. Marilyn has to practise dancing.
  5. Each of them has to make an impromptu speech.
  6. Both Ali and Lee have a pet at home.

Paired Conjunctions (Correlative Conjunctions):
neither…nor, either … or **

  1. Neither you nor Lilian has time to learn to play the piano.
  2. Neither Keith nor I have time to watch football this week.
  3. Either your parents or Fred is picking you up at the railway station.
  4. Either Mimi or her children are going to the concert.

** For paired conjunctions, the subject closer to the verb determines whether the verb is singular or plural.