Some Common French Conjunctions and Transition Words… And Why You Should Use Them | Newsdle

Some Common French Conjunctions and Transition Words… And Why You Should Use Them



Conjunctions are words that connect two phrases, while transition words help link paragraphs or sections of text. Both conjunctions and transition words – also known as connective words or connecting words – are essential for making your French sound smoother and more natural. They play a big part in adding variety to your conversations and making your writing more coherent and better organised. 

Some Common French Conjunctions 

The French language’s most common conjunctions should be amongst the first words you learn. 

  • et – and. Using et is the easiest and most common way to link two phrases together to give your sentence more flow. For example: 
  • Je suis allé au marché et j'ai acheté des légumes. (I went to the market, and I bought some vegetables) 
  • The conjunction joins the two phrases together and makes it sound less stop-start. 
  • mais – but. Just like English, it serves to contrast two ideas in a sentence: 
  • Notre maison est petite mais très confortable à l'intérieur. (Our house is small, but very cozy inside). 
  • ou – or. Another high-frequency French conjunction. Just as in English it is used to join two or more choices 
  • Voulez-vous jouer dans le jardin ou regarder la télévision ? (Do you want to play in the garden or watch TV). 
  • donc – so, therefore. When used as a conjunction, it means the second phrase is a consequence of the first. 
  • Elle a étudié dur toute l’année, donc ses notes étaient très bonnes. (She studied hard all year, therefore she got good grades). 

Other simple French conjunction words that are frequently used

puis – then 

car – because (Note that car is mostly used in written French. In spoken French parce que is used) 

or – now, yet, but 

So far so simple, because the above French conjunctions work basically the same as their English equivalents. Where it gets more complicated is when we start talking about subordinating conjunctions, indicative conjunction clauses and subjunctive conjunction clauses. 

Subordinating Conjunctions 

The simple conjunctions above were all used to link two independent phrases. Independent means you could remove the conjunction, and split the long sentence into two short ones, and both sentences would still make sense. For example: 

Elle a étudié dur toute l’année, donc ses notes étaient très bonnes. 

Elle a étudié dur toute l'année. Ses notes étaient très bonnes. 

However, there are many instances where conjunctions link two phrases, and one phrase is dependent on the other. Some of these conjunctions are a single word, and some are phrases. Here are some examples of single word subordinating conjunctions: 

lorsque – when: 

Je vais sortir lorsque la pluie s'arrêtera. (I will go out when the rain stops.) 

si – if : 

Si tu viens demain, nous irons au cinéma. (If you come tomorrow, we will go to the cinema.) 

comme – since/as: 

Il est fatigué, comme il a travaillé toute la journée. (He is tired, as he has worked all day.) 

quand – when: 

Nous irons au parc quand il fera beau. (We will go to the park when the weather is nice.) 

puisque – since/because: 

Tu peux emprunter mon livre puisque tu en as besoin. (You can borrow my book since you need it.) 

Again, these are relatively straightforward because, apart from an exception or two that I will note below, they work similarly to conjugations in English. 

Indicative Conjunction Clauses 

We’ve looked at single-word conjunctions, but the French also frequently use conjunction clauses, especially in French writing. The Indicative Conjunction Clause is when the dependent clause uses the indicative tense. Indicative tenses include the simple present, past, and simple future tenses.  

These are the main indicative conjunction clauses, and you’ll notice that they all end in que: 

après que – after 

aussitôt que – as soon as 

parce que – because 

pendant que – while 

peut-être que – perhaps 

tandis que – while, whereas 

The following examples show the indicative conjunction clause in action. Note how the dependent clause has an indicative tense (either present, past or future). 

après que – after: 

Nous sortons après qu'il termine son travail. (We go out after he finishes his work.) 

parce que – because: 

Elle est heureuse parce qu'elle a réussi son examen. (She is happy because she passed her exam.) 

tandis que – while: 

Il étudiera tandis que ses amis regarderont la télévision. (He will study while his friends watch TV.) 

Subjunctive Conjunction Clauses 

Although the above conjunction clauses are common and easy to use, the French have another set of conjunction clauses that can create difficulties for learners. The subjunctive conjunction clause, as the name suggests, uses a subjunctive tense rather than the simpler indicative tenses. Let’s look at an example using a relatively common subjunctive conjunction clause, afin que 

afin que – so that: 

Il fait des efforts afin que nous soyons tous heureux. (He is making efforts so that we all may/might be happy.) 

Notice how, in the dependent clause, we use the subjunctive for ‘we are’, which is nous soyons. 

Here are a few more examples to shed some light: 

en attendant que – while waiting for: 

Nous resterons ici en attendant qu'il arrive. (We will stay here while/waiting for him to arrive.) The subjunctive here is a breeze to use because the 3rd person singular for -er verbs is identical to the 3rd person singular in the simple present tense. 

bien que – although: 

Bien qu'il soit fatigué, il continuera à travailler. (Although he is tired, he will continue working.) The subordinating clause is at the beginning of the sentence, and uses the subjunctive for ‘he is’, il soit. 

Learning the subjunctive can seem challenging at first but gets a bit easier if you know a few rules. To form the present subjunctive for regular verbs, start with the 3rd person plural (ils) of the present indicative tense. Remove the -ent ending and add the following endings: -e, -es, -e, -ions, -iez, -ent. This means that all the first-person forms and the third-person plural are the same as the present simple tense. 

It might also be good to know that, in spoken French, only the present and past subjunctive are used. The past subjunctive uses the same pattern as the past compose tense, which is formed with être/avoir plus the past participle of the main verb. 

However, be aware that many irregular verbs, such as être, avoir, faire, aller, pouvoir, etc also have irregular subjunctives that need to be learned. Don't worry; you'll get the hang of it with practice. 

Here’s a list of some common subjunctive conjunction clauses to get you started:  

à condition que – provided that 

à moins que – unless 

à supposer que – assuming that 

afin que – so that 

avant que – before 

bien que – although 

de crainte que – for fear that 

de façon que – so that, in order that, in such a way that 

de peur que – for fear that 

en attendant que – while, until 

encore que – even though 

jusqu’à ce que – until 

pour que – so that 

pourvu que - provided that 

qui que – whoever 

Earlier I mentioned that single-word conjunctions were relatively straightforward, apart from a couple of exceptions that pose difficulties for many French learners. One of those exceptions is quoique, which means ‘although’. It is special because it’s the only single-word conjunction to use the subjunctive conjunction. Take a look at this sentence : 

Elle le soutiendra quoique vous soyez en désaccord. (She will support him although you may be in disagreement.)  

You can see here that the subjunctive for ‘you (pl) are’ is used, vous soyez. 

French Transition Words 

Conjunctions are mainly used within a sentence, whereas transition words are used to link sentences, paragraphs, or ideas. You can use French transition words to list things, to introduce an item or an example, as time markers, to introduce a different view, to show similarities between items, and so on. 

Here’s a list of some of the most useful transition words to make your writing flow more smoothly and logically, and to add variety to your spoken French. 

French Transition words for listing elements in order 

  • Pour commencer – for starters 
  • D’abord – first of all 
  • Ensuite – next 
  • En plus – also 
  • Enfin – finally 
  • Avant de conclure – before concluding 
  • À la fin – at the end 

French Transition words for introducing examples 

  • Par exemple – for example 
  • Par instance – for instance
  • En particulier – in particular
  • À savoir – namely
  • Spécifiquement – specifically
  • C'est-à-dire – that is
  • Pour illustrer – to illustrate 

French Transition words used as temporal markers 

  • De temps en temps – every so often 
  • Occasionnellement – occasionally 
  • Jour après jour – day after day 
  • Brièvement – briefly 
  • Pendant longtemps – for a long time 
  • A cette époque-là – in those days 
  • Avant cette date – before then 
  • Au début – in the beginning 

French Transition words for showing cause 

  • En consequence – accordingly 
  • Par conséquent – as a result 
  • C'est pourquoi – hence 
  • Ainsi – thus 

French Transition words for introducing an opposing point of view 

  • D’ailleurs – besides 
  • Cependant – however 
  • Au contraire – in contrast 
  • Néanmoins – nevertheless 
  • D'autre part – on the other hand 
  • Par contre – on the other hand 

French Transition words for showing similarities between items 

  • De la même manière – by the same token 
  • De manière correspondante – correspondingly 
  • Sans oublier – not to mention 
  • Également – equally 
  • De manière similaire - similarly 
  • De même – likewise 
  • Par ailleurs – moreover 

How to Improve Your Use of Conjunctions and Transitions 

If you're looking to level up your French skills, mastering conjunctions and transitions is a key step. Whether you need to pass a proficiency exam, or you’re just aiming to express yourself better, here are some practical tips. 

1. Textbook Learning 

Studying textbooks is a classic method, especially when it comes to mastering the grammar behind subordinate clauses and the subjunctive. Good textbooks are well structured and provide clear explanations, often with exercises to reinforce your learning. Exercises and answers help you practise what you’ve learned and check that you’ve grasped the concepts correctly. 

2. Contextual Learning with Newsdle 

We all know that studying with textbooks can be dry and boring. Enter context-based learning! Newsdle is an ideal resource for this, as it integrates grammar explanations into real news stories. Each lesson provides comprehensive explanations for grammar points you come across in the news item. Newsdle lessons are also accompanied by exercises to test your understanding, making the learning process more engaging. 

Newsdle grammar example French

Newsdle grammar example in French

3. Listening to Podcasts Repeatedly 

Listening several times to podcast episodes is another great means of reinforcing the material. After several listens, you will start to notice the transition words that a host will use to organise his or her ideas. Or the host might often use a particular conjunctive clause like afin que or bien que, and soon enough you will notice that the host always uses the subjunctive after these two conjunctions. After repeated listens eventually afin que plus the subjunctive will sound natural together. 


Conjunctions and transition words are like building blocks that can be used to construct smooth and logical sentences in French. Your French communication skills will become more coherent, better organised, and more expressive if you incorporate more French connective words. This not only helps you to better express what you wish to say and add more nuance to your thoughts, but it also makes it easier for native speakers to follow your ideas. The use of conjunctions adds a pleasing flow to your communication, which will be appreciated by your readers or listeners. And mastering the French subjunctive? That's sure to leave native speakers impressed! 


Nick Dennis 

 Nick Dennis

Nick is an English teacher who has taught English as a Foreign Language in China, Italy and France. He has a Bachelor of Arts (Modern Languages), majoring in French, from the University of New South Wales. He loves travel, reading and football and, of course, learning languages. Four years ago, Nick and his wife co-founded an online English language school targeted at the Chinese market (since sold to Chinese investors). He has also ghost-written the autobiography of a well-known Australian horse trainer.

Extensive reading in French will not only unlock the beauty of the French language but also gain insights into its culture and heritage. Happy reading, and enjoy exploring new worlds through the pages of French texts! 


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