Tuesday, 30 October 2012





E-Blocks® is a teaching system developed by the Positivo Corp. The institution has a 30-year experience devoted to education. We have a board of experts that ensure the quality of all our products. Having a network of 2,200 affiliated schools and over 600,000 students using our teaching methods, we are committed to providing quality classroom programs in connection to our research based educational findings.
Scientifically research data were the basis for E-Blocks® project development.
By collecting data and inputting it into our program, E-Blocks ensures that students, even struggling ones, get the basic support and practice they need to become skillful and motivated learners.
Product Description

E-Blocks® is an innovative method for teaching English as a second language and for initial literacy exposure. Based on the well-known premise that children learn by doing, the E-Blocks® approach provides unlimited hands-on interaction between children (ages 4 to 10) and the subject matter.
Panel & Blocks

E-Blocks® employs a revolutionary panel that makes it easy for students of all skill levels to interact with engaging multimedia software. Children identify letters, spell words, and build sentences by placing palm-sized blocks labeled with letters and symbols into the panel’s pockets. The intuitive and manipulative nature of the interface makes it universally accessible. Students with limited previous exposure to English and to technology can benefit as well from E-Blocks®. Designed as a working corner station, E-Blocks allows teachers to easily manage and supervise learners.

E-Blocks® is used for teaching English as a second language and for initial literacy exposure in:
• Pre-schools and Kindergartens
• Primary schools
• Language centers or ESL programs


The research findings include insights into important roles of:
• Phonemic awareness
• Constructivist activities
• Associations between hearing, reading and doing
• Social, Emotional development and team building
• Multiple sensory learning

E-Blocks® incorporates all of the findings, bringing these insights into the classroom learning environment.
1 – Phonemic Awareness

E-Blocks® is a classroom solution that provides a unique methodology that promotes phonemic awareness in accordance with the findings of the American National Reading Panel (2001).

a. Phoneme isolation
      Children recognize individual sounds in a word.
      Eg: What is the first sound in van?
      The first sound in van is /v/.
b. Phoneme identity
      Children recognize the same sounds in different words.
      Eg.: /what sound is the same in foot, five and frog?
      The first sound, /f/, is the same.
c. Phoneme categorization
      Children recognize the word in a set of three of four words that       has the ‘odd’ sound.
      Eg.: Which word doesn’t belong? Bus, bun, rug.
      Rug does not belong. It doesn’t begin with /b/.
d. Phoneme blending
      Children listen to a sequence of separately spoken phonemes,
      and then combine the phonemes to form a word. Then they
      write and read the word.
      Eg.: What word is /b/ /i/ /g/?
      It’s big.
e. Phoneme segmentation
      Children break a word into its separate sounds, saying each
      sound as they tap out or count it. Then they write and read
      the word.
      Eg.: How many sounds are in grab?
      /g/ /r/ /a/ /b/. Four sounds
f. Phoneme deletion
      Children recognize the word that remains when a phoneme
      is removed from another word.
      Eg.: What is smile without the /s/?
      Smile without the /s/ is mile.
g. Phoneme addition
      Children make a new word by adding a phoneme to an
      existing word.
      Eg.: What word do you have if you add /s/ to the beginning
      of park?
g. Phoneme substitution
      Children substitute one phoneme for another to make a new
      Eg.: The word is bug. Change /g/ to /n/. What’s the new word?

Phonemic awareness instruction helps children learn to read. It also improves their reading comprehension. Phonemic awareness instruction aids reading comprehension primarily through its influence on word reading. For children to understand what they read, they must be able to read words rapidly and accurately. Rapid and accurate word reading frees children to focus their attention on the meaning of what they read. (Center for the Improvement of Early Reading Achievement (CIERA). (2003) Put Reading First: The Research Building Blocks for Teaching Children to Read. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office.)

2. Constructivist Approach
E-Blocks® adopts a constructivist approach that emphasizes learning by doing. By promoting a hands-on, direct interaction with the content, E-Blocks® encourages children to generate their own set of rules and models, which then become the basis for further learning experiences.

3. Total Physical Response
E-Blocks® follows the principles of the Total Physical Response (TPR) teaching method, promoting the associations between hearing, reading and doing. The use of concrete materials coupled with (abstract) computer generated stimuli is a research proven method that fosters the development of cognitive skills. The studies of e.g. Ball & Blachman (1991), Bradley & Bryant (1983, 1985), Ehri & Wilce (1987) and Tangel & Blachman (1992) determine the enhanced effectiveness of phonemic awareness instruction when students have the opportunity to physically manipulate letters.

4. Social Skills
There is strong evidence that early social and emotional development and language development are closely interrelated (Espinosa, 2001).
E-Blocks® provides a unique system for promoting social interaction and group discussions that enhances and enriches students’ learning experiences. Each E-Blocks® panel is designed to accommodate up to six students working simultaneously on the tasks presented by the software, making it ideal for small group pull-outs. Research evidence points to the higher level of achievement obtained by cooperative teams. Students that work in groups achieve higher levels of thought and retain information longer that students who work individually (Johnson and Johnson, 1986). Shared learning provides opportunities for discussions and empowers students by giving them responsibility for their own learning and foster critical thinking skills (Totten, Sills, Digby, & Russ, 1991).
A child who is socially and emotionally ready for school and thus ready to learn is confident, friendly, has good peer relationship, concentrates and persists on challenging tasks, has good language development, can communicate well, listen to instructions, and is attentive. (Huffman et al.,2000)

5. Multiple Sensory Learning
E-Blocks® focuses on activating all senses as much as possible. Children take in information through their senses: they learn what they see, hear and do.
Each student has a different learning style and preference for one sensory channel over another. The kinesthetic, auditory and visual stimuli provided by the manipulation of the blocks and the multimedia software responses afford access to the content to students with multiple learning styles (Gardner, 1993). This is why E-Blocks® is such an effective learning tool. It provides a balance of visual, auditory and kinesthetic presentation, processing and practice of linguistic information.
E-Blocks® employs multimedia software that is designed to be engaging and accessible. Animated characters, voice capabilities, and full-color graphics are known to motivate students (Van Dusen, & Worthen, 1995) and to outdo in some instances textbook-based instruction (Mikk & Luik, 2003). E-Blocks® avoids the negative effects of cognitive overload reported by e.g. Berry (2000) by using a uniform and familiar set of icons and consistent operation of the software.

E-Blocks® enables children to experience language through all their senses in a fun and relaxed way.
The activities establish a strong foundation for both listening comprehension and reading skills.
Hands-on learning- the use of manipulative materials - adds kinesthetic feature to the system that reinforces learning.
The software provides a wide variety of fun activities and intellectual stimulation that encourages a gradual learning process. The entire product is based on problem solving and not rote-learning.
This system contributes to a child’s social and cognitive skills development, emotional growth, and gross and fine motor skills. Discussions and interactions are initiated; students collaborate with each other to solve common challenges.
E-Blocks® provides theme and topic-based learning, using familiar and relevant contexts that are part of the child's universe.

Ball, M.E., & Blachman, B. (1991). Does phoneme awareness training in kindergarten make a difference in early word recognition and developmental spelling? Reading Research Quarterly, 26, 49–66.
Berry, L. (2000) Cognitive Effects of Web Page Design. In Instructional and Cognitive Impacts of Web-Based Education (ed. B. Abbey), pp. 41-55. Idea Group Publishing, London.
Bradley, L., & Bryant, P. (1985). Rhyme and reason in reading and spelling. Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press.
Bradley, L., & Bryant, P.E. (1983). Categorizing sounds and learning to read - A causal connection. Nature, 301, 419-521.
Center for the Improvement of Early Reading Achievement (CIERA). (2003) Put Reading First: The Research Building Blocks for Teaching Children to Read . Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office.
Ehri, L.-C. and L.-S. Wilce (1987). Cipher versus cue reading: An experiment in decoding acquisition. Journal of Educational Psychology 79(1): 3-13.
Gardner, H. (1993). Multiple intelligences: The theory into practice. New York: Basic Books.
Johnson, R. T., & Johnson, D. W. (1986). Action research: Cooperative learning in the science classroom. Science and Children, 24, 31-32.
Mikk, J. & Luik, P. (2003) Characteristics of multimedia textbooks that affect post-test scores. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning 19 (4), 528-537. doi: 10.1046/j.0266-4909.2003.00055.x
National Reading Panel, The (2001). Teaching children to read: An evidence-based assessment of the scientific research literature on reading and its implications for reading instruction—reports of the subgroups. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education.
Tangel, D.M., & Blachman, B.A. (1992). Effect of phonemic awareness instruction on kindergarten children’s invented spelling. Journal of Reading Behavior, 24, 233–261.
Totten, S., Sills, T., Digby, A., & Russ, P. (1991). Cooperative learning: A guide to research. New York: Garland.
Van Dusen, L.M. & Worthen, B.R. (1995) Can integrated instructional technology transform the classroom? Educational Leadership, 53, 2, 28-33.
Espinosa, L. (2001). The connection between social-emotional development and early literacy. In Set for Success: Building a strong foundation for school readiness based on the social-emotional development of young children.
Huffman, L.C., Mehlinger, S.L., & Kerivan, A.S. (2000). Risk factors for academic and behavioral problems at the beginning of school. In Off to a good start: Research on the risk factors for early school problems and selected federal policies affecting children’s social and emotional development and their readiness for school. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina, FPG Child Development Center.

Vocabulary Games

These are some of the games that can help improve vocabulary.

Learning English Vocabulary

Learning English Vocabulary

Vocabulary.co.il is a leading vocabulary website worldwide with the best flash online word games. The vocabulary games include an online word search, an online crossword puzzle, and hangman online (our version is called HangMouse). Users choose the vocabulary list that the online word game will use in the word game. The vocabulary games are popular for use on smart boards for word games to build vocabulary skills in classrooms.

Many people build their English vocabulary through a blend of methods — by taking English classes, reading books, watching movies in English, and studying English with English language software. Playing word and vocabulary games is a valuable part of learning English. There are thousands of vocabulary words in our vocabulary lists.

Vocabulary.co.il is a fun educational website dedicated to helping you build reading, phonics, or English language skills. We offer Free Online Word Games which are specifically designed to build vocabulary skills and to motivate people to learn through fun practice in spelling, phonics, and vocabulary.
Whether you are studying vocabulary as part of a homeschool curriculum, for afterschool enrichment, or a summer academic skills program, Vocabulary Learning Fun provides the premier free vocabulary-building resources and games.


All the auxiliary verbs except be, do and have are called modals. Unlike other auxiliary verbs modals only exist in their helping form; they cannot act alone as the main verb in a sentence.
Be, do, and have also differ from the other auxiliaries in that they can also serve as ordinary verbs in a given sentence.

The modal verbs are:-


Can They can control their own budgets. We can’t fix it.
Can I smoke here?
Can you help me?
Ability / Possibility Inability / Impossibility
Asking for permission
Could Could I borrow your dictionary? Could you say it again more slowly?
We could try to fix it ourselves.
I think we could have another Gulf War.
He gave up his old job so he could work for us.
Asking for permission. Request
Future possibility
Ability in the past
May May I have another cup of coffee? China may become a major economic power. Asking for permission Future possibility
Might We'd better phone tomorrow, they might be eating their dinner now.
They might give us a 10% discount.
Present possibility
Future possibility
Must We must say good-bye now. They mustn’t disrupt the work more than necessary. Necessity / Obligation Prohibition
Ought to We ought to employ a professional writer. Saying what’s right or correct
(More common in the UK than the US)
Shall I help you with your luggage? Shall we say 2.30 then?
Shall I do that or will you?
Offer Suggestion
Asking what to do
Should We should sort out this problem at once. I think we should check everything again.
Profits should increase next year.
Saying what’s right or correct Recommending action
Uncertain prediction
Will I can’t see any taxis so I’ll walk. I'll do that for you if you like.
I’ll get back to you first thing on Monday.
Profits will increase next year.
Instant decisions Offer
Certain prediction
Would Would you mind if I brought a colleague with me? Would you pass the salt please?
Would you mind waiting a moment?
"Would three o`clock suit you?" - "That’d be fine."
Would you like to play golf this Friday?
"Would you prefer tea or coffee?" - "I’d like tea please."
Asking for permission Request
Making arrangements

!Note The modal auxiliary verbs are always followed by the base form. The verb used to, which is explained here, can also be used like a modal verb.


Phonetic Alphabets

These are not phonetic alphabets as in those used to guide pronounciation, rather they are a selection of alphabets used, particularly by radio operators, to spell out words.
Brian Kelk has the most comprehensive list available and many of the alphabets listed here come from his collection. I found John Higgins' Silent Alphabet amusing.
Phonetic Alphabets of the World
LetterNATO & International AviationBritish Forces 1952RAF 1942-43Telecom BBritish A or InternationalNY PoliceFrenchGermanItalianSpanish
Ä       Ärger  
Ch       Charlotte Chocolate
É      Émile   
JJulietJigJug/JohnnyJackJerusalemJohnJosephJuliusI lungaJosé
Ll         Llobregat
NNovemberNanNutsNellieNew YorkNoraNicolasNordpolNapoliNavarra
Ñ         Ñoño
Ö       Ökonom  
Sch       Schule  
Ü       Übermut  



Pronunciations in the American English and Essential American English dictionary do not use the 'long vowel' marker /ː/ and, in place of the syllable division marker /./, they use a raised dot /·/.


Long Vowels
ɔː horse
ɜː bird
Short Vowels
ɪ ship e head
æ hat ə above
ʊ foot ɚ mother (US)
ɒ sock (UK) ɝ worm (US)
ʌ cup


b book
d day
ɡ give
v very
ð the
z zoo
ʒ vision
l look
r run
j yes
w we
m moon
n name
ŋ sing
p pen
t town
k cat
f fish
θ think
s say
ʃ she


ɔɪ boy
əʊ nose (UK)
nose (US)
ɪə ear (UK)
hair (UK)
ʊə pure (UK)

Other Symbols

h /ˈhænd/
ɒ̃ /ˈkwæs.ɒ̃/
croissant (UK)
i /ˈhæp.i/
t ̬ /ˈbʌt ̬.ɚ/
butter (US)
u /ˌɪn.fluˈen.zə/
l ̩ /ˈlɪt.l ̩/

əl, əm, ən can be pronounced either: əl or l ̩ etc.:
/ˈleɪb.əl/ = /ˈleɪb.əl/ or /ˈleɪb.l̩/

linking r is pronounced only before a vowel in British English:
fɔːr + ˈæp.l ̩z = fɔːˈræp.l ̩z
four + apples = four apples
ˈ main stress /ˌek.spekˈteɪ.ʃən/ expectation
ˌ secondary stress /ˌriːˈtell/ retell
. syllable division /ˈsɪs.təm/ system


Some words are satisfied spending an evening at home, alone, eating ice-cream right out of the box, watching Seinfeld re-runs on TV, or reading a good book. Others aren't happy unless they're out on the town, mixing it up with other words; they're joiners and they just can't help themselves. A conjunction is a joiner, a word that connects (conjoins) parts of a sentence.

Coordinating Conjunctions

The simple, little conjunctions are called coordinating conjunctions (you can click on the words to see specific descriptions of each one):

Coordinating Conjunctions

(It may help you remember these conjunctions by recalling that they all have fewer than four letters. Also, remember the acronym FANBOYS: For-And-Nor-But-Or-Yet-So. Be careful of the words then and now; neither is a coordinating conjunction, so what we say about coordinating conjunctions' roles in a sentence and punctuation does not apply to those two words.)
Click on "Conjunction Junction" to read and hear Bob Dorough's "Conjunction Junction" (from Scholastic Rock, 1973).
Schoolhouse Rock® and its characters and ABCother elements are trademarks and service marks of American Broadcasting Companies, Inc. Used with permission.
When a coordinating conjunction connects two independent clauses, it is often (but not always) accompanied by a comma:
  • Ulysses wants to play for UConn, but he has had trouble meeting the academic requirements.
When the two independent clauses connected by a coordinating conjunction are nicely balanced or brief, many writers will omit the comma:
  • Ulysses has a great jump shot but he isn't quick on his feet.
The comma is always correct when used to separate two independent clauses connected by a coordinating conjunction. See Punctuation Between Two Independent Clauses for further help.
A comma is also correct when and is used to attach the last item of a serial list, although many writers (especially in newspapers) will omit that final comma:
  • Ulysses spent his summer studying basic math, writing, and reading comprehension.
When a coordinating conjunction is used to connect all the elements in a series, a comma is not used:
  • Presbyterians and Methodists and Baptists are the prevalent Protestant congregations in Oklahoma.
A comma is also used with but when expressing a contrast:
  • This is a useful rule, but difficult to remember.
In most of their other roles as joiners (other than joining independent clauses, that is), coordinating conjunctions can join two sentence elements without the help of a comma.
  • Hemingway and Fitzgerald are among the American expatriates of the between-the-wars era.
  • Hemingway was renowned for his clear style and his insights into American notions of male identity.
  • It is hard to say whether Hemingway or Fitzgerald is the more interesting cultural icon of his day.
  • Although Hemingway is sometimes disparaged for his unpleasant portrayal of women and for his glorification of machismo, we nonetheless find some sympathetic, even heroic, female figures in his novels and short stories.

Beginning a Sentence with And or But

A frequently asked question about conjunctions is whether and or but can be used at the beginning of a sentence. This is what R.W. Burchfield has to say about this use of and:
There is a persistent belief that it is improper to begin a sentence with And, but this prohibition has been cheerfully ignored by standard authors from Anglo-Saxon times onwards. An initial And is a useful aid to writers as the narrative continues.
from The New Fowler's Modern English Usage
edited by R.W. Burchfield. Clarendon Press: Oxford, England. 1996.
Used with the permission of Oxford University Press.
The same is true with the conjunction but. A sentence beginning with and or but will tend to draw attention to itself and its transitional function. Writers should examine such sentences with two questions in mind: (1) would the sentence and paragraph function just as well without the initial conjunction? (2) should the sentence in question be connected to the previous sentence? If the initial conjunction still seems appropriate, use it.

Among the coordinating conjunctions, the most common, of course, are and, but, and or. It might be helpful to explore the uses of these three little words. The examples below by no means exhaust the possible meanings of these conjunctions.

  1. To suggest that one idea is chronologically sequential to another: "Tashonda sent in her applications and waited by the phone for a response."
  2. To suggest that one idea is the result of another: "Willie heard the weather report and promptly boarded up his house."
  3. To suggest that one idea is in contrast to another (frequently replaced by but in this usage): "Juanita is brilliant and Shalimar has a pleasant personality.
  4. To suggest an element of surprise (sometimes replaced by yet in this usage): "Hartford is a rich city and suffers from many symptoms of urban blight."
  5. To suggest that one clause is dependent upon another, conditionally (usually the first clause is an imperative): "Use your credit cards frequently and you'll soon find yourself deep in debt." top
  6. To suggest a kind of "comment" on the first clause: "Charlie became addicted to gambling — and that surprised no one who knew him."

  1. To suggest a contrast that is unexpected in light of the first clause: "Joey lost a fortune in the stock market, but he still seems able to live quite comfortably."
  2. To suggest in an affirmative sense what the first part of the sentence implied in a negative way (sometimes replaced by on the contrary): "The club never invested foolishly, but used the services of a sage investment counselor."
  3. To connect two ideas with the meaning of "with the exception of" (and then the second word takes over as subject): "Everybody but Goldenbreath is trying out for the team."
  1. To suggest that only one possibility can be realized, excluding one or the other: "You can study hard for this exam or you can fail."
  2. To suggest the inclusive combination of alternatives: "We can broil chicken on the grill tonight, or we can just eat leftovers.
  3. To suggest a refinement of the first clause: "Smith College is the premier all-women's college in the country, or so it seems to most Smith College alumnae."
  4. To suggest a restatement or "correction" of the first part of the sentence: "There are no rattlesnakes in this canyon, or so our guide tells us."
  5. To suggest a negative condition: "The New Hampshire state motto is the rather grim "Live free or die." top
  6. To suggest a negative alternative without the use of an imperative (see use of and above): "They must approve his political style or they wouldn't keep electing him mayor."
Authority used for this section on the uses of and, but, and or: A University Grammar of English by Randolph Quirk and Sidney Greenbaum. Longman Group: Essex, England. 1993. Used with permission. Examples our own.

The Others . . .

The conjunction NOR is not extinct, but it is not used nearly as often as the other conjunctions, so it might feel a bit odd when nor does come up in conversation or writing. Its most common use is as the little brother in the correlative pair, neither-nor (see below):
  • He is neither sane nor brilliant.
  • That is neither what I said nor what I meant.
>It can be used with other negative expressions:
  • That is not what I meant to say, nor should you interpret my statement as an admission of guilt.
It is possible to use nor without a preceding negative element, but it is unusual and, to an extent, rather stuffy:
  • George's handshake is as good as any written contract, nor has he ever proven untrustworthy.
The word YET functions sometimes as an adverb and has several meanings: in addition ("yet another cause of trouble" or "a simple yet noble woman"), even ("yet more expensive"), still ("he is yet a novice"), eventually ("they may yet win"), and so soon as now ("he's not here yet"). It also functions as a coordinating conjunction meaning something like "nevertheless" or "but." The word yet seems to carry an element of distinctiveness that but can seldom register.
  • John plays basketball well, yet his favorite sport is badminton.
  • The visitors complained loudly about the heat, yet they continued to play golf every day.
In sentences such as the second one, above, the pronoun subject of the second clause ("they," in this case) is often left out. When that happens, the comma preceding the conjunction might also disappear: "The visitors complained loudly yet continued to play golf every day."
Yet is sometimes combined with other conjunctions, but or and. It would not be unusual to see and yet in sentences like the ones above. This usage is acceptable.
The word FOR is most often used as a preposition, of course, but it does serve, on rare occasions, as a coordinating conjunction. Some people regard the conjunction for as rather highfalutin and literary, and it does tend to add a bit of weightiness to the text. Beginning a sentence with the conjunction "for" is probably not a good idea, except when you're singing "For he's a jolly good fellow. "For" has serious sequential implications and in its use the order of thoughts is more important than it is, say, with because or since. Its function is to introduce the reason for the preceding clause:
  • John thought he had a good chance to get the job, for his father was on the company's board of trustees.
  • Most of the visitors were happy just sitting around in the shade, for it had been a long, dusty journey on the train.
Be careful of the conjunction SO. Sometimes it can connect two independent clauses along with a comma, but sometimes it can't. For instance, in this sentence,
  • Soto is not the only Olympic athlete in his family, so are his brother, sister, and his Uncle Chet.
where the word so means "as well" or "in addition," most careful writers would use a semicolon between the two independent clauses. In the following sentence, where so is acting like a minor-league "therefore," the conjunction and the comma are adequate to the task:
  • Soto has always been nervous in large gatherings, so it is no surprise that he avoids crowds of his adoring fans.
Sometimes, at the beginning of a sentence, so will act as a kind of summing up device or transition, and when it does, it is often set off from the rest of the sentence with a comma:
  • So, the sheriff peremptorily removed the child from the custody of his parents.

The Case of Then and Than

Than & Then
In some parts of the United States, we are told, then and than not only look alike, they sound alike. Like a teacher with twins in her classroom, you need to be able to distinguish between these two words; otherwise, they'll become mischievous. They are often used and they should be used for the right purposes.

Than is used to make comparisons. In the sentence "Piggy would rather be rescued then stay on the island," we have employed the wrong word because a comparison is being made between Piggy's two choices; we need than instead. In the sentence, "Other than Pincher Martin, Golding did not write another popular novel," the adverbial construction "other than" helps us make an implied comparison; this usage is perfectly acceptable in the United States but careful writers in the UK try to avoid it (Burchfield).
Generally, the only question about than arises when we have to decide whether the word is being used as a conjunction or as a preposition. If it's a preposition (and Merriam-Webster's dictionary provides for this usage), then the word that follows it should be in the object form.
  • He's taller and somewhat more handsome than me.
  • Just because you look like him doesn't mean you can play better than him.
Most careful writers, however, will insist that than be used as a conjunction; it's as if part of the clause introduced by than has been left out:
  • He's taller and somewhat more handsome than I [am handsome].
  • You can play better than he [can play].
In formal, academic text, you should probably use than as a conjunction and follow it with the subject form of a pronoun (where a pronoun is appropriate).
Then is a conjunction, but it is not one of the little conjunctions listed at the top of this page. We can use the FANBOYS conjunctions to connect two independent clauses; usually, they will be accompanied (preceded) by a comma. Too many students think that then works the same way: "Caesar invaded Gaul, then he turned his attention to England." You can tell the difference between then and a coordinating conjunction by trying to move the word around in the sentence. We can write "he then turned his attention to England"; "he turned his attention, then, to England"; he turned his attention to England then." The word can move around within the clause. Try that with a conjunction, and you will quickly see that the conjunction cannot move around. "Caesar invaded Gaul, and then he turned his attention to England." The word and is stuck exactly there and cannot move like then, which is more like an adverbial conjunction (or conjunctive adverb — see below) than a coordinating conjunction. Our original sentence in this paragraph — "Caesar invaded Gaul, then he turned his attention to England" — is a comma splice, a faulty sentence construction in which a comma tries to hold together two independent clauses all by itself: the comma needs a coordinating conjunction to help out, and the word then simply doesn't work that way.

Subordinating Conjunctions

A Subordinating Conjunction (sometimes called a dependent word or subordinator) comes at the beginning of a Subordinate (or Dependent) Clause and establishes the relationship between the dependent clause and the rest of the sentence. It also turns the clause into something that depends on the rest of the sentence for its meaning.
  • He took to the stage as though he had been preparing for this moment all his life.
  • Because he loved acting, he refused to give up his dream of being in the movies.
  • Unless we act now, all is lost.
Notice that some of the subordinating conjunctions in the table below — after, before, since — are also prepositions, but as subordinators they are being used to introduce a clause and to subordinate the following clause to the independent element in the sentence.

Common Subordinating Conjunctions

as if
as long as
as though
even if
even though
if only
in order that
now that
rather than
so that

The Case of Like and As

Strictly speaking, the word like is a preposition, not a conjunction. It can, therefore, be used to introduce a prepositional phrase ("My brother is tall like my father"), but it should not be used to introduce a clause ("My brother can't play the piano like as he did before the accident" or "It looks like as if basketball is quickly overtaking baseball as America's national sport."). To introduce a clause, it's a good idea to use as, as though, or as if, instead.
  • Like As I told you earlier, the lecture has been postponed.
  • It looks like as if it's going to snow this afternoon.
  • Johnson kept looking out the window like as though he had someone waiting for him.
In formal, academic text, it's a good idea to reserve the use of like for situations in which similarities are being pointed out:
  • This community college is like a two-year liberal arts college.
However, when you are listing things that have similarities, such as is probably more suitable:
  • The college has several highly regarded neighbors, like such as the Mark Twain House, St. Francis Hospital, the Connecticut Historical Society, and the UConn Law School.

Omitting That

The word that is used as a conjunction to connect a subordinate clause to a preceding verb. In this construction that is sometimes called the "expletive that." Indeed, the word is often omitted to good effect, but the very fact of easy omission causes some editors to take out the red pen and strike out the conjunction that wherever it appears. In the following sentences, we can happily omit the that (or keep it, depending on how the sentence sounds to us):
  • Isabel knew [that] she was about to be fired.
  • She definitely felt [that] her fellow employees hadn't supported her.
  • I hope [that] she doesn't blame me.
Sometimes omitting the that creates a break in the flow of a sentence, a break that can be adequately bridged with the use of a comma:
  • The problem is, that production in her department has dropped.
  • Remember, that we didn't have these problems before she started working here.
As a general rule, if the sentence feels just as good without the that, if no ambiguity results from its omission, if the sentence is more efficient or elegant without it, then we can safely omit the that. Theodore Bernstein lists three conditions in which we should maintain the conjunction that:
  • When a time element intervenes between the verb and the clause: "The boss said yesterday that production in this department was down fifty percent." (Notice the position of "yesterday.")
  • When the verb of the clause is long delayed: "Our annual report revealed that some losses sustained by this department in the third quarter of last year were worse than previously thought." (Notice the distance between the subject "losses" and its verb, "were.")
  • When a second that can clear up who said or did what: "The CEO said that Isabel's department was slacking off and that production dropped precipitously in the fourth quarter." (Did the CEO say that production dropped or was the drop a result of what he said about Isabel's department? The second that makes the sentence clear.)
Authority for this section: Dos, Don'ts & Maybes of English Usage by Theodore Bernstein. Gramercy Books: New York. 1999. p. 217. Examples our own.

Beginning a Sentence with Because

Somehow, the notion that one should not begin a sentence with the subordinating conjunction because retains a mysterious grip on people's sense of writing proprieties. This might come about because a sentence that begins with because could well end up a fragment if one is not careful to follow up the "because clause" with an independent clause.
  • Because e-mail now plays such a huge role in our communications industry.
When the "because clause" is properly subordinated to another idea (regardless of the position of the clause in the sentence), there is absolutely nothing wrong with it:
  • Because e-mail now plays such a huge role in our communications industry, the postal service would very much like to see it taxed in some manner.

Correlative Conjunctions

Some conjunctions combine with other words to form what are called correlative conjunctions. They always travel in pairs, joining various sentence elements that should be treated as grammatically equal.
  • She led the team not only in statistics but also by virtue of her enthusiasm.
  • Polonius said, "Neither a borrower nor a lender be."
  • Whether you win this race or lose it doesn't matter as long as you do your best.
Correlative conjunctions sometimes create problems in parallel form. Click HERE for help with those problems. Here is a brief list of common correlative conjunctions.

both . . . and
not only . . . but also
not . . . but
either . . . or
neither . . . nor
whether . . . or
as . . . as

Conjunctive Adverbs

The conjunctive adverbs such as however, moreover, nevertheless, consequently, as a result are used to create complex relationships between ideas. Refer to the section on Coherence: Transitions Between Ideas for an extensive list of conjunctive adverbs categorized according to their various uses and for some advice on their application within sentences (including punctuation issues).


The Preposition

Recognize a preposition when you see one.

Prepositions are the words that indicate location. Usually, prepositions show this location in the physical world. Check out the three examples below:

The puppy is on the floor.
Bad dog!
The puppy is in the trash can.

Don't chew the cell phone!
The puppy is beside the phone.
On, in, and beside are all prepositions. They are showing where the puppy is. Prepositions can also show location in time. Read the next three examples:
At midnight, Jill craved mashed potatoes with grape jelly.
In the spring, I always vow to plant tomatoes but end up buying them at the supermarket.
During the marathon, Iggy's legs complained with sharp pains shooting up his thighs.
At midnight, in the spring, and during the marathon all show location in time.
Because there are so many possible locations, there are quite a few prepositions. Below is the complete list.

according to
along with
apart from
as for
because of
by means of
except for
in addition to
in back of
in case of
in front of
in place of
in spite of
instead of
on top of
out of
up to
* But is very seldom a preposition. When it is used as a preposition, but means the same as exceptEveryone ate frog legs but Jamie. But usually functions as a coordinating conjunction.

Understand how to form a prepositional phrase.

Prepositions generally introduce prepositional phrases. Prepositional phrases look like this:
preposition + optional modifiers + noun, pronoun, or gerund
Here are some examples:
At school
At = preposition; school = noun.
According to us
According to = preposition; us = pronoun.
By chewing
By = preposition; chewing = gerund.
Under the stove
Under = preposition; the = modifier; stove = noun.
In the crumb-filled, rumpled sheets
In = preposition; the, crumb-filled, rumpled = modifiers; sheets = noun.

Realize that some prepositions also function as subordinate conjunctions.

Some prepositions also function as subordinate conjunctions. These prepositions are after, as, before, since, and until. A subordinate conjunction will have both a subject and a verb following it, forming a subordinate clause.
Look at these examples:
After Sam and Esmerelda kissed goodnight
After = subordinate conjunction; Sam, Esmerelda = subjects; kissed = verb.
As Jerome buckled on the parachute
As = subordinate conjunction; Jerome = subject; buckled = verb.
Before I eat these frog legs
Before = subordinate conjunction; I = subject; eat = verb.
Since we have enjoyed the squid eyeball stew
Since = subordinate conjunction; we = subject; have enjoyed = verb.
Until your hiccups stop
Until = subordinate conjunction; hiccups = subject; stop = verb.
If you find a noun [with or without modifiers] following one of these five prepositions, then all you have is a prepositional phrase. Look at these examples:
After the killer calculus test
After = preposition; the, killer, calculus = modifiers; test = noun.
As a good parent
As = preposition; a, good = modifiers; parent = noun.
Before dinner
Before = preposition; dinner = noun.
Since the breakup
Since = preposition; the = modifier; breakup = noun.
Until midnight
Until = preposition; midnight = noun.