French Transition Words

Instructor: Andrew Diamond

Andrew has worked as an instructional designer and adjunct instructor. He has a doctorate in higher education and a master's degree in educational psychology.

Transition words connect ideas to each other, helping the listener make sense of what we say. This article will teach you some French transition words and give examples of how to use them.

Conjunctive Adverbs

Simon was bored. He was hungry. He went to the kitchen to look for some food. Chips were looking pretty good. Simon reached for some cookies.

What's going on with this paragraph? Why does it read so clumsily?

It's missing conjunctive adverbs. Conjunctive adverbs - or transition words - are words or phrases that connect two ideas, sentences or paragraphs and give the listener important information about how those ideas relate to each other. Here's how that same paragraph would read with some transition words added in:

Simon was bored. He was also hungry. Therefore he went to the kitchen to look for some food. Chips were looking pretty good; however, Simon reached for some cookies.

What Transition Words Do

Transition words do all sorts of things. They can add one idea to another, as in the second sentence above: also adds one idea (hunger) to the previous idea (boredom). They can add a result, like the third sentence - as a result of Simon's hunger, he went to the kitchen. They can also contrast two ideas, as in the fourth example - chips look good, but he went with cookies instead. Learning French transition words will help you communicate your ideas in French clearly and more easily.

Combine Ideas

Transition words can help us add one idea to another.

Simon aimait les cookies ainsi que gâteau.
SEE-mone AY-may lay COOK-eez ahn-SEE kay GEH-too.
Simon liked cookies as well as cake.

Ainsi indicates that we are building on the first idea presented in the sentence. We are adding cake to cookies.

Additional words that add include:

in addition en outre ahn OOH-truh
and et ay
also aussi OOH-see

Proceed an Example

Certain transition words lead up to an explanation or illustration.

Par example, il jouissait gâteau opéra.
Pahr eggs-AHMPL, eel zhoo-ee-SAY GEH-too OH-pair-ah.
For example, he enjoyed opéra cake.

You know that you are going to get an example of Simon's love of cookies and cake because we preface the sentence with par example. Other words that can set up an illustration of an idea include:

in other words autrement dit OOH-truh-MAHN dee
in fact en fait ahn fay
specifically spécifiquement speh-see-FEEK-mahn

Preface an Opinion

Transition words can also indicate that you're about to give your personal opinion about something.

Pour moi, profiteroles sont mieux.
Poor mwah, pro-FEET-er-ole sahn myew.
In my opinion, profiteroles are better.

You don't have to agree about whether profiteroles, cakes or cookies are better, because you know that this is just one man's opinion. You could also say:

I think je pense que zhuh pahns kuh
personally personnellement pair-SUN-ehl-uh-mahn
for my part pour ma part poor ma pa(r)

Order Ideas

Some transition words indicate the sequence or order in which things happened.

D'abord, Simon a mangé les cookies.
Dah-BORE, SEE-mone mahn-JAY luh COOK-eez.
First, Simon ate the cookies.

This very clearly indicates that the cookies came first.

Puis il a mangé un gâteau.
Pwee eel uh mahn-JAY ahn GEH-too.
Then he ate a cake.

These two transition words combine to give you the order in which Simon ate these things. Here are some additional transition words that indicate a sequence of events:

first d'abord Dah-BORE
second deuxième DUH-zyem
third troisième TWAH-zyem
after après AH-pray
later plus tard ploo tahr
last dernier DEHN-yay

Illustrate Cause and Effect

Other transition words illustrate what caused a certain result.

En conséquence, il a mal au ventre.
Ahn CAHN-say-cahnse, eel ah mal ah vahnt(ruh).
As a result, his stomach hurt.

Here, we are explaining the result of all the eating Simon has been doing. Some other French transition words that illustrate cause and effect include:

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