Choppy French is a recipe for disaster.
Okay, so maybe it’s not that bad…
But nobody wants their French to sound choppy, right?
Luckily, the French language has quite the catalog of transition words to help hold it all together.
And let me tell you, the French love their transition words!
Not only do they keep you from sounding robotic, but they’re also the key to writing effective essays, understanding the literature you’re reading and improving (never stop!) your comprehension and conversation.
They may be little words, and you could ignore them and get the bare gist of things anyway, but you’re not that kind of learner, now, are you?
Let’s get to it and start adding these key ingredients to our nouns, verbs and adjectives.
How to Integrate French Transition Words into Your Diet
Get your feet wet with quizzes
How much do you really know about these words, anyway? Gauging your knowledge with a few quizzes before you delve into any topic is always a good idea. You may even get a little confidence boost when you realize that you already know a sizable handful of transition words!
If your knowledge is looking kind of rough, make sure to study away using the methods below.
Extract transition words from your reading
Transition words are sprinkled all over your French texts (you’re doing your reading, right?). In order to fully understand what you’re reading, knowing transition words is the final frontier. The clarity will be unreal! With this in mind, use the words around transition words to try and guess from context if you’re unsure. If you still aren’t positive as to what a word means, highlight it for later and look it up in one of your French dictionaries.
You’ll find these fun tie-in words in every type of French literature, from children’s books to young adult fiction to classic literary masterpieces. Once you know the bulk of them, you can revel in the wonderful feeling of understanding that much more French text.
Write your own beautiful sentences
I didn’t want to say it, but here it is…practice makes perfect, guys. So get out your pens and paper, and start on those French sentences! Try writing a paragraph that uses four or five transition words.
If you’re more into immersion-based learning, make sure to include appropriate transition words when writing emails to your pen pals, writing entries in your French journal or even in text messages with another French-speaking friend. You’ll sound oh-so-sophisticated.
Use transition words with the subjunctive
The subjunctive is nothing to fear, but sometimes it can be difficult to integrate into the French you actually use. The tendency of some learners is to avoid it (we’ve all been there). Lucky for you, I’ve noted which of the transitional words and phrases below take the subjunctive. It shall be ignored no longer! This will give you some French to use right away while practicing both your transitions and the subjunctive.
If you’re still a beginner, no worries here. Many of these words and phrases don’t require the subjunctive mood. On the other hand, you always could take the opportunity to learn about this ultra-useful and fun French staple.
Tying It All Together: 23 Transition Words for Seamless French
Translation: First of all
D’abord, il faut réchauffer le four. (First of all, you must preheat the oven.)
When you think “transition word,” this may be what you’re thinking. To start with the basics, here’s one of the first transition words you likely learned in French class. It’s best at the beginning of sentences, when giving directions or when recounting a series of events.
Ensuite, je prépare la tarte aux cerises. (Next, I prepare the cherry pie.)
An easy way to remember this one (yet another in the series of your basic transition words), is that la suiteis the sequel or “the next one” in French. It’s a useful piece of vocab when delving into French book series and films, and this transition word is obviously useful for continuing a series of events or directions you may be giving.
Puis, je coupe les pêches. (Then, I cut the peaches.)
Then, you’ve got puis. If you’re unfamiliar with this one, just know that it’ll come up a lot in literature and conversation. It’s a very useful transition word to have under your belt. Puis proves to be a good fallback word to have when some of the more specific transition words slip your mind.
Subjunctive-friendly? Not this one, either.
Enfin, on mange tout. (Finally, we eat everything.)
In our d’abord, ensuite, puis sequence, we end with enfin. This useful word is not only used as a transition to mark la fin(the end) of something, but is also an interjection—a filler word, if you will. It can mean “well,” “all in all,” “I mean” or “at least.” It’s a multi-edged sword. Use it as a transition to an end or to make your conversational French more authentic.
Subjunctive-friendly? Pas du tout (not at all).
5. Ainsi que
Translation: As well as
Je voudrais une tarte aux pommes ainsi que deux boules de glace. (I would like apple pie as well as two scoops of ice cream.)
Getting into some more advanced vocabulary now, this means “just as.” This conjunction is useful when elaborating on something you’re already discussing. It can also be used with a different meaning of “just as,” as in “It went just as I thought.”
6. Après que
Je vais dormir après que je mange toute cette tarte. (I’m going to sleep after I eat all this pie.)
Bet you’re wondering what the difference is between après queand that old favorite après. Après is a preposition, and après que is a compound conjunction. All that means is you use the latter when it’s followed by a verb (like in the example). If you wanted to start a sentence with “after,” then you would use the preposition:
Après, on va partir. (After, we’re going to leave.)
Remember that the quehelps link the clauses, and you should be good to link the night away.
Subjunctive-friendly? Technically, no, but French speakers tend to use the subjunctive after it regardless. So go ahead and get the extra practice.
7. Avant que
Je vais finir la tarte avant que je nettoie la cuisine. (I’m going to finish the pie before I clean the kitchen.)
Similar to après que, this conjunction is not to be confused with its definition without que. The same distinction can be made—avantbeing the preposition in this case and avant quethe compound conjunction.
Subjunctive-friendly? Yes, and don’t you forget it!
8. Bien que
Translation: Although/even though
Il m’a donné une tarte aux pêches bien que j’aie commandé une tarte aux pommes ! (He gave me peach pie even though I ordered an apple pie!)
Careful not translate this one to “good that.” This conjunctive phrase is great for showing contrast and adding “conditions” to things, even though you have to know your subjunctive to use it.
Subjunctive-friendly? Oh, most definitely.
9. Dès que
Translation: As soon as
Dès que la tarte arrive, je vais la détruire. (As soon as the pie arrives, I will destroy it.)
This is usually followed by not the subjunctive, but by a future tense! Makes sense considering the context. This is a great conjunctive phrase to use when making threats, lofty goals and uncertain plans. Très useful.
Subjunctive-friendly? Never, ever.
10. Parce que/car
J’aime les tartes plus que les gâteaux parce que (car) la croûte est magnifique. (I like pies more than cakes because the crust is magnificent.)
You’re likely familiar with parce que, and maybe less so with car. There are some slight distinctions to keep in mind for you nit-picky French speakers out there: Car leans slightly more towards “since” or “for.” Parce que is a little stronger when used in speech. They both mean essentially the same thing, but it’s good to know both of them to add variety to your French conversation.
11. Pour que
Translation: So that
Je fais une tarte pour que tu aies quelque chose à manger ce soir. (I’m making a pie so that you have something to eat tonight.)
Oh, isn’t it great when such a useful conjunction takes the subjunctive? Well, sure it is! That’s how you get practice. Pourmeans for, but for translation purposes, “so that”makes more sense when using this phrase.
Subjunctive-friendly? You better believe it!
12. Quoi que
Translation: No matter what
Quoi que ma mère fasse en cuisine, c’est délicieux. (No matter what my mom makes in the kitchen, it’s delicious.)
I bet your mind is reeling with how much better your French will sound once you get this one down. No matter what the medium is, it’s useful. But you may be noticing an interesting trend: A word that you’re well-versed in (bien, quoi, pour), whenadded to our favorite little word que, can bring out a completely different definition. Keep this in your mental notebook when you read these phrases or hear them spoken!
Subjunctive-friendly? Yes…yet again!
13. Tant que
Translation: As long as
Tant que cette tarte est là, je serai tenté de la manger. (As long as this pie is here, I will be tempted to eat it.)
What’s tantmean anyway? Funny you should ask, because this here is yet another example of fun words being transformed by their trusty sidekick que. Tant by itself means “so much or many,” or can be used to express an indefinite quantity. If you apply that definition back to this transitional phrase, then you can see something of a rough translation that matches “as long as.” But as long as you remember the definition, you’ll be good to go.
Subjunctive-friendly? No, you’re safe on this one.
Comme j’ai mangé trop de tarte, je ne peux pas manger mes légumes. (Since I ate too much of the pie, I can’t eat my vegetables.)
Puisque je l’ai fait, je goûte en premier. (Since I made it, I’ll taste [it] first.)
Even though the definition is the same on these two, there is a slight distinction. Comme is useful for showing both the cause and result in a sentence, whereas puisque just gives an explanation. Comme also likes to hang around at the beginning of sentences, whereas puisque can go in the middle if it so pleases. This distinction will help you sound extra-super pro!
Subjunctive-friendly? No and no.
Je cuisinais quand/lorsquetu es arrivé. (I was cooking when you arrived.)
These are interchangeable when talking about time, though lorsque is a formal upgrade of quand. Gauge the situation when you pick. They both have their own special purpose as well: Quand can mean “whenever,” and lorsque can mean “whereas.”
Subjunctive-friendly? Sadly, no.
Translation: Even though
Je mangerai une autre tranche quoique je n’aie pas faim. (I will eat another slice even though I’m not hungry.)
Okay, I’ll admit…it does get a bit confusing here. We just did quoi que, meaning “no matter what,”and now we’ve got the same thing minus the space in between and all of a sudden it means “even though”? These sound the same when spoken, but you should be able to figure it out based on the context. In addition, bien queand quoique can be used interchangeably. Just another opportunity for you to diversify.
Subjunctive-friendly? You better believe it.
Je veux que tu la goûtes, donc je garde une part. (I want for you to taste it, so I’m saving a piece.)
There is so much to say about this little word. Doncis one of the holy grails of French filler words, one of the little idiosyncrasies of French speech that you’ll pick up while in France and carry with you, smiling, forever. They use it both in the “correct” fashion, showing causation, as well as how we use it in English: “So, here’s the thing.” “So, I was heading to the store.” “So… So… So…” Remember donc. Cherish it. Can you tell this is my favorite French transition word?
Subjunctive-friendly? Not even close.
18. En fait
Translation: In fact
En fait, l’année dernière j’ai gagné une competition. (In fact, last year I won a competition.)
You have no excuses for not remembering this one. It’s spelt and sounds similar to the English definition. Use this phrase before emphasizing an important conclusion or key point.
Translation: However, nonetheless
Cependant, j’aime un bon gâteau de temps en temps. (However, I enjoy a nice cake from time to time.)
Cependantis actually an adverb, but it still functions as a transition word. Use it at the beginning of a sentence to point out an opposition or contradiction. Pourtantis a close cousin, but it’s a little more nuanced, as it indicates that one thing happened when another one was expected to.
Subjunctive-friendly? No! No!
20. En revanche/par contre
Translation: On the other hand, in opposition
Une tarte aux pommes est classique. Par contre, une tarte aux tomates est bonne pour le petit-déjeuner, le déjeuner et le dîner. (An apple pie is classic. On the other hand, a tomato pie is good for breakfast, lunch and dinner.)
The definition is close to cependant, but provides a little clearer contrast. Those make for two great transition words when you’re writing essays in French or can’t decide which type of pie is better.
Subjunctive-friendly? Mais non !
21. En plus/en outre
En outre, il faut choisir un bon parfum de glace pour accompagner la tarte. (Also, one must choose a good ice cream flavor to go with the pie.)
Need to add something that you forgot before? These two are good ways to vary your language and avoid using aussi (also) at every turn. En plusis common in conversation, and it, as well as en outre, is often a better alternative to aussi in written French.
Subjunctive-friendly? Jamais (never).
22. Pour ma part/pour moi
Translation: For me
Pour moi/ma part, je préfère la tarte au citron. (For me, I prefer lemon pie.)
Here are two phrases to use when you want to put emphasis on “me! me! me!” Pour moiis a good way to order at a restaurant, and pour ma partis best for stating opinions.
Subjunctive-friendly? Stop asking. It’s another “no.”
23. À mon avis
Translation: In my opinion
À mon avis, tous ces phrases sont ridicules ! (In my opinion, all of these sentences are ridiculous!)
But when you really want to make it all about you and your opinions, this is the best phrase. To qualify a statement as an opinion, or before you go on a rant about something you’re passionate about, this is a great transitional phrase to use and abuse!
Subjunctive-friendly? This is the last time I’m saying it…nope.
Enfin, you’re well-equipped to speak like a pro, write like an essayist and understand all the details in the French literature you’re devouring.
While there are far more transition words than those listed, knowing the basics will do wonders for your fluency.
Choppy French no more!
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One quick look will give you an idea of the diverse content found on FluentU:
Love the thought of learning French with native materials but afraid you won’t understand what’s being said? FluentU brings authentic French videos within reach of any learner. Interactive captions will guide you along the way, so you’ll never miss a word.
Tap on any word to see a definition, in-context usage examples, audio pronunciation, helpful images and more. For example, if you tap on the word “suit,” then this is what appears on your screen:
Don’t stop there, though. Use FluentU’s learn mode to actively practice all the vocabulary in any video with vocabulary lists, flashcards, quizzes and fun activities like “fill in the blank.”
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Transition words and phrases help make a piece of writing flow better and connect one idea to the next. Because there's more than one way to connect ideas, there are many types of transitional phrases to show a variety of relationships. Some words will help you show the order in which events occur, while others explain a cause-and-effect relationship or allow you to present your ideas in a hierarchy of importance.
What Are Transition Words and Phrases?
The most basic transition words are conjunctions that join words, phrases or clauses together. For example, words like "and," "but" and "or" can connect two sentences together:
I ran home, and I got there just in time.
I ran home, but I was still late.
As you can see in the example above, even simple conjunctions serve different purposes. The first sentence uses "and" as a transition word that connects the two occurrences equally. The second sentence uses "but," which introduces a contrast. Knowing what different transition words mean will help you choose the ones that best get your point across.
Other transition words are adverbs that describe the way an action is performed or how it relates to another idea. For example:
I went to the mall after he gave me my paycheck.
Bowling is a sport in which the player with the highest score wins. Conversely, the goal in golf is to get the lowest score.
Placement of Transition Words
Transition words can be used within a single sentence, between two different sentences or even between paragraphs. See how the writing below can be improved by adding transition words in each of these situations.
Original: Susan spoke, thinking of the right answer.
With Transitions: Susan spoke only after thinking of the right answer.
In this case, the transition words are used to connect two parts of a single sentence. This transition highlights chronology, or the order in which events occurred.
Original: Michael didn't have enough money to buy his mom flowers. He wasn't old enough to get a job. He felt sad on Mother's Day.
With transitions: Michael didn't have enough money to buy his mom flowers because he wasn't old enough to get a job. Nevertheless, he felt sad on Mother's Day.
The example above combines two sentences into one and helps a third sentence flow logically from the one before it. Adding these transition words shows how three disjointed sentences are related to each other, which otherwise might not be obvious to the reader.
When transitions are used between paragraphs, they are often in the form of a phrase or clause that refers to the previous information while introducing a new idea. These transitions often come at the beginning of new paragraphs and may use phrases like these:
- In addition to point A, point B is also important.
- In conclusion, the thesis is clear.
- It follows logically that the answer results from the points made earlier in this paper.
Categories of Transition Words
There are several types of transitional words and phrases, and each category helps the reader to make certain connections. Some signal the building of an idea, while others help readers compare ideas or draw conclusions.
Here are some common transition words and examples of them in use.
These transitions point out alternatives or differences:
- on the contrary
The boy liked birds, but he was afraid of cats. Similarly, he did not like lions and tigers. On the contrary, he liked animals that could fly, such as sparrows and falcons. Likewise, he thought bats were the most interesting mammals thanks to their wings.
These transitions help define time:
Before you go home, make sure you jot down your assignments so you can review your work during the evening. Later, you'll be glad you did when you can simultaneously study and eat dinner.
These transitions show the consequences of an action:
- as a result
Since you're such a good student, you'll get into a good college. Therefore, you can get a job you like. As a result, you should be a happy person, because it's much easier to be happy when you do something you love and make good money.
These transitions add emphasis or introduce evidence:
- to demonstrate
Ellen loves ice cream. Truly, she'd be happy to eat sundaes every day—specifically, chocolate fudge brownie sundaes. To demonstrate her love of ice cream, Ellen is planning an ice cream social for all her friends.
These transitions add information or reinforce ideas:
Jonas promised to love, honor and also obey his wife. Moreover, he will do all the cooking and cleaning while he studies at home. Furthermore, he is grateful that his new wife earns enough money to let him do that.
These transitions show support:
- to put it another way
- in other words
- that is
I hate school; that is, I dislike it intensely. In other words, I want to drop out. To put it another way, school is the worst place in the world.
These transitions present conditions or intentions:
- with this in mind
With what was possibly the greatest catch of all time, the Patriots won the Super Bowl. They almost always win big games. With this in mind, they could be called the greatest team of all time.
These transitions restate ideas:
- as can be seen
- given these points
- in the long run
All the facts have been presented and, as can be seen, the results are clear. Given these points, it's clearly time to consider some changes. In the long run, these recommendations will benefit our company.
Building Smooth Transitions
These are just a few examples of the many transition words and phrases available in the English language to make your writing more cohesive. Bear in mind, that it is possible for some words to be placed in more than one category, depending on the way you use it or the ideas you're trying to connect. For a longer list of transition words, see Transitional Word Lists for Students. The more transition words you use in your writing, the smoother and more interesting it will be for your readers.