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Last updated July 10, 2007

Transition Signals

Transition signals are words and phrases that link one sentence with another sentence, usually the one immediately before it. They can also be used in a compound sentence to connect the second independent clause with the first one. These words and phrases function as adverbs that modify entire sentences; hence, they are called sentence adverbs.

The first set of signals explained here belong to the language of argument (demonstration or proof). These signals relate statements (propositions consisting of a subject and a predicate) in a sequence of statements that moves by logical steps towards a conclusion. The second set of signals belongs to compare and contrast essays.
Go to explanation of these signals.

Signals for Argumentative Essays
1. Signals of an apparent contradiction
2. Related words (connect clauses)
3. Signals of concession
4. Signals of parallel support
5. Adjectives that indicate parallel support
6. Signals of sequence (also parallel)

Signals for Compare Contrast Essays
  Signals of likeness
8.  Signals of difference
9.  Related words
10. Signals of logical consequence
11. Signals of illustration
12. Signals of restatement
13. Other Signals of Continuity:
          Demonstrative adjectives
          Repeated words and phrases

1. Signals of an apparent contradiction for argumentative essays

These signals introduce statements that appear to contradict the previous point.

And yet,

Success is impossible without confidence; however, overconfidence leads to failure.
The Greek gods are more powerful than mortals; nevertheless, they must bow to the higher power of fate.

2. Related words (These words are used to connect two clauses in the same sentence.)

although , but

Although the weather cleared up, the flooding only got worse.
The queen initially acts as a devoted leader, but later she abandons her duty for love. 


Discussion: Signals of difference and signals of apparent contradiction are easy to confuse. The former typically involve a contrast between two individuals, two groups, or two events. The latter involve very often a contrast between a fact about a group and a fact about an individual member of the group or between a general rule and a specific case (an exception). Apparent contradiction occurs when two points suggest opposite conclusions even though they are not strictly incompatible themselves. Consider the following examples which illustrate the difference between signals of apparent contradiction and signals of difference:

I like sports; however, I don't like hockey.
I like sports. My brother, on the other hand, despises them.  

3. Signals of concession

These words introduce points that contradict your main point, which you are conceding without giving up your claim that your main point is true.

Of course,
To be sure,
It is true that

In the Aeneid Aeneas illustrates the idea of pietas, the Roman ideal of duty to family, state, and gods. Of course, when we first encounter him in the poem, he has forgotten his obligation to his people and succumbed to self-pity. As the poem proceeds, however, he overcomes his weakness and makes the personal sacrifices that pietas demands.


Discussion: Signals of concession are used in situations where you want to introduce an opposing point, but you don't want to stress it because it contradicts your main idea. Signals of apparent contradiction always stress the point they introduce. Notice that a concession must be followed by a point in support of your main idea and that the transition from concession to support requires a signal of apparent contradiction.

4. Signals of parallel support

These signals indicate that the point introduced by the signal is separate from the previous point, but equal to it in effect or consequence (in other words, it supports for the same general idea).

also (Use this signal only once in a paragraph.)
In addition,
(This signal emphasizes the point introduced.)
Furthermore, (This signal emphasizes the point introduced.)

Athena in the Odyssey represents the idea of intelligence, especially as it appears in clever schemes and contrivances. Thus, she is associated with strategy in war; it was she who inspired Odysseus to build the Trojan horse. She also is the goddess of handicraft, especially weaving; it is she who inspires women to weave intricate designs upon the loom.

Beware of using "also" or any of the other signals of parallel support to join ideas which are not parallel. For example, in the following passage the point which "also" introduces is a consequence of the previous point.

Athena in the Odyssey represents the idea of intelligence, especially as it appears in clever schemes and contrivances. Also, she is associated with strategy in war; it was she who inspired Odysseus to build the Trojan horse.

5. Related words (adjectives that indicate parallel support):


Ares is the god of war. Another deity found on the battlefield is Athena, who is associated with military strategy; it was she who inspired Odysseus to build the Trojan horse. 

6. Signals of sequence (also parallel support)


The first four of these signals can be used either as adverbs or as adjectives. Note the following example:

A second lesson of the recent French election is less obvious and yet more important.... A third lesson to the vote is that the French are ambivalent about modernization in general.


Essays of comparison and contrast require signals of likeness and difference. These signals establish relationships between persons, places, things, structures, or events.

Signals of likeness

These signals indicate that two things or persons share a common property or that two events follow a common pattern.

In the same way,

In their epic poetry the Greeks looked back to a heroic age which they contrasted with their own more crassly materialistic age. Likewise, among the Germans bards sang of long-dead heroes who were stronger and more courageous than those who listened to them in the meed hall.

8. Signals of difference

These signals indicate that one of two things, persons, or events, though in some respects similar to the other, lacks a specific property which the other possesses.

on the other hand,
in contrast,

In the forest reside the fairies, spirits free from the limitations of physical reality. Lacking the encumbrance of the body, they enjoy a magical freedom of movement. In contrast, the residents of Athens are human beings, who possess physical bodies that subject them to the laws of nature. They cannot pass through even a forest, much less "flood or fire," with the ease or speed of thought.

In the temple of Juno Aeneas succumbs to the temptation of pity. In the temple of Apollo, on the other hand, he does not let such feelings hold him back.

9. Related words (These words relate one part of a sentence to another part of the same sentence.)


Middle school teachers watch over students like parents, whereas upper school teachers treat them more like responsible adults.
Unlike the Fairies, who are free to pursue their own desires, the mortals are constrained by the laws of nature and society.

10. Signals of logical consequence

These signals indicate that the point being introduced is a logical or necessary result of the point or points preceding it.


All men are mortal. Socrates is a man. Therefore, Socrates is mortal.
In the Iliad the warriors fight with weapons made of bronze, never of iron, although when the Greeks learned to work with iron it quickly displaced the other metal because of its superior strength and availability. Nonetheless, in Homer's epic similes we find references to iron implements. We may therefore conclude that Homer sings of events set in the bronze age but he himself lives in the iron age.

11. Signals of illustration

These signals introduce examples which illustrate a general point that has just been made.

For example,
For instance,

In Don Quixote Cervantes establishes a pattern which later novelists very often follow. The main character becomes so enchanted by the romantic tales told in books (or projected on the screens of cinemas) that he or she loses touch with reality, or rather devotes all of his or her time to making reality conform to the world of romance and adventure. For example, in Flaubert's Madame Bovary Emma embarks on a series of adulterous affairs in a vain attempt to realize in her own life the stories she read as a girl.


Use "for example" to introduce an event or occurrence--one among many--which illustrates a general point. Do not use "for example" to introduce other kinds of evidence, such as someone's opinion that something is true. Study the following three passages. Can you see why "for example" is inappropriate in the first one?

In the Odyssey the gods watch out for beggars. For example, Eumaeus says, "Every stranger and beggar comes from Zeus" (14.66).


Can you see how the next two passages avoid the error?

In the Odyssey the gods watch out for beggars just as Eumaeus says: "Every stranger and beggar comes from Zeus" (14.66).
In the Odyssey social class is no index of moral character. For example, the swineherd Eumaeus displays the noble traits of generosity and modesty when he welcomes Odysseus to his hut.

12. Signals of restatement

These signals introduce clarifications.

that is,
in other words,
in simpler terms,
to put it differently,

Hermes is not only the messenger of Zeus, but the patron of thieves. In other words, he is the god of authorized and unauthorized transfers.

13. Other Signals of Continuity

These signals do not specify what kind of relation one sentence has to its predecessors, but simply indicate that the same topic is still under discussion.


In the Odyssey Zeus is the ruler of the gods, presiding over council meetings on Olympos like one of the mortal kings. He is also the god of hospitality, protecting wayfarers from unprovoked attack.


      Demonstrative adjectives

When Hermes arrives on Calypso's island, she greets him with a question about his motives for visiting. This breach of Homeric etiquette does not escape his notice.


      Repeated words and phrases

Proteus promises Menelaus that he will not die; rather, in time to come he will be transported to the Elysian Fields, western islands where the West Wind always blows its gentle breeze. This same gentle breeze also blows on the Phaeacians, whose happy kingdom is another version of paradise.


* * * * * * *

The following two paragraphs illustrate the use of a number of different signals in the context of a comparison between two sets of characters in Shakespeare's A Midsummer's Night Dream. The signals of transition are printed in bold type. Repetitions of wording, which make the contrast clearer, are printed in italics. Comparative references in the second paragraph back to the first paragraph are underlined.

In the forest reside the fairies, spirits free from the limitations of physical nature and human society. Lacking the encumbrance of the body, they enjoy a magical freedom of movement. They can pass "thorough flood, thorough fire" (2.1.5), travelling with supernatural speed. In the words of the first fairy, "I do wander everywhere/ Swifter than the moon's sphere..." (2.1.6-7). The fairies are also free to pursue their own desires, unrestrained by the limiting power of law. Oberon and Titania are married, but both enjoy adulterous love affairs without breaking any rules that govern them. Titania knows that Oberon has made love to "amorous Phillida" (2.1.68), and he knows of her love for Theseus. In the forest desire can only conflict with desire--Oberon's desire for the changeling with Titania's desire to keep him--for otherwise desire has no limits. Of course, when such conflicts arise, there are consequences: Oberon gets even with Titania by making her fall in love with Bottom, a creature beneath her in dignity and stature. These consequences, however, are not serious and the whole action is little more than a game because the fairies are immortal and can suffer no real harm. The worst that can happen is that Titania becomes a laughing stock.

In contrast, Shakespeare's Athenians are subject to the laws of nature and society. They cannot pass through even a forest, much less flood or fire, with the ease or speed of thought. "Fair love, you faint with wand'ring in the wood;/ And to speak troth, I have forgot the way" (2.2.35-36), says Lysander to Hermia. Whereas everything happens swiftly in the forest, four days seem to Theseus an eternity:

...how slow
This old moon wanes. She lingers my desires,
Like a stepdame, or a dowager,
long withering out a young man's revenue. (1.1.3-6)