‘Connective’: why it’s best to avoid the term

In the new National Curriculum terminology has been dropped that teachers have been using for a long time, but it isn’t made clear why this has been done. An example is the term connective that has been widely used by teachers to group words that can connect units of information in various ways. These include words like however, so and nonetheless, and because, although and after. In most contemporary discussions of grammar, and in the 2014 National Curriculum, the term ‘connective’ is not used. Instead, we distinguish between subordinating conjunctions, coordinating conjunctions and certain types of adverbs. Subordinating conjunctions place one clause in a lower (subordinate) relationship to another.

  • He is only six years old, although he is very tall.
  • They devoured the cookies because they were hungry.

On the other hand, coordinating conjunctions link two units of an equal status:

  • novels and plays
  • fast but unsafe

Finally, words that connect sentences or clauses more loosely in terms of their meaning are called (linking) adverbs:

  • Everyone loves vacations in Hawaii. Nevertheless, I would never want to go there myself.
  • I have lots of friends, so I’m very happy.

Note that the adverbs above can be omitted, and the result would still be a grammatical sentence. The conjunctions in the first two examples cannot be omitted without the result becoming a ‘run-on’ sentence. This is just one very good reason why these two types of connective words (conjunctions and adverbs) are not part of a single grammatical category.

You may find that the term connective is useful as a general notion that encourages students to think about how they might connect one piece of information to another. However, it is not considered a word class in the 2014 National Curriculum, and we would strongly encourage teachers to avoid it. (From the Englicious Glossary ‘connective’).

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3 thoughts on “‘Connective’: why it’s best to avoid the term

  1. Pingback: Grammar in schools: some Q&As and a plea | GRAMMARIANISM

  2. Also this doesn’t really explain why it’s best to avoid this term. It simply explains coordination and subordination. It could easily be referred to as a subordinating connective, as it currently is in many schools. Replacing connective with conjunction seems to be a semantic decision rather than a purposeful one.

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