By Mayra Yaranga
In this new series of articles, we’d like to address some of the problems our students find in the process of learning English. Let us start with one apparently simple, but tricky point. In my experience, students have some problems when choosing some of the famous linking words, particularly those with similar meanings but different grammar.
What happens, for example, when our students want to express contrast between two ideas? The word they will most often use is but.
- I was very eager to learn Japanese, but I gave up quickly after starting.
- The team trained very little, but they won their matches easily.
Of course, this is not the only way to mark contrast, and, in order to show students’ English has gone beyond a basic level, they should be able to use some other linking words which essentially mean the same, but are grammatically quite different , such as however, although and in spite of.
1. However is a sentence adverb. That means it should start a new sentence.
I was very eager to learn Japanese. However, I gave up quickly after starting.
2. Although is a conjunction. That means it will join two clauses (two sentences within a sentence) creating a contrast relationship.
Although the team trained very little, they won their matches easily.
Students can also use the shorter though in exactly the same way. Only that it has an additional use at the end of a short sentence, very common in speech:
I was very eager to learn Japanese. I gave up quickly after starting, though.
3. The most difficult phrase is in spite of. It is a phrase that works as a preposition. That means it doesn’t take sentences or clauses, but noun phrases (phrases with a noun or gerund as the most important word, not a verb)
In spite of my eagerness to learn Japanese, I gave up quickly after starting. (eagerness is the noun that replaces “I was eager”)
In spite of training very little, the team won their matches easily. (training is the gerund that replaces “the team trained”)
In more formal English, your students can use despite, which is a slightly more formal word:
Despite training very little, the team won their matches easily. (NOT
the team trained very little,
We sincerely hope you find our advice useful and helps you consolidate what your students have been doing in class. See you next time!
Now it’s YOUR turn:
Do your students show problems when using these linkers?
What do you do to address those problems?
Mayra Yaranga (1985) has completed Doctorate studies in Education at UNIFÉ;Master’s Degree in Media, Culture and Identity from Roehampton University (London) revalidated by PUCP, a Bachelor’s Degree in Education - UPCH and the Professional Title of Licenciada - IPNM. Currently she works as IELTS trainer, Cambridge Oral Examiner and Member of the Research Area for Universidad del Pacifico Language Centre. She is also ESP coordinator and Pre-University Centre Director at UNIFÉ.