#295: Discuss Differences in English Conversation | Linking Words of Contrast

Nov 22, 2023 | Advanced Vocabulary, Grammar

When you’re comparing options — two smartphones, two vacation packages, two job offers — you might notice the similarities. 

But it’s the differences that will likely help you make a final decision. It’s the differences that help you determine what is better or worse.

When discussing differences in English conversation, linking words of contrast help to speak with clarity and with an easy-to-follow structure.

Similar to a recent lesson I did on how to compare similarities in English, in this Confident English lesson today, you’ll learn 7 ways to contrast in English — or discuss differences — using linking words so you can easily discuss your options, distinguish the differences, and make the best choice.

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Discuss Differences in English Conversation | Linking Words of Contrast

What are linking words?

Linking words are also known as transitional words or connectors. They are words or phrases that connect one part of a text or sentence to another. In other words, they build a bridge from one idea, one sentence, to another. 

When you use these bridges in your speech, they create a logical connection. An easy transition. Even better, they improve the flow and clarity of your speech. 

The words you learn today will help you do that when you want to highlight similarities. 

Linking Word 1: In Contrast To

When we want to make a smooth transition in a sentence to highlight a difference or introduce an opposing idea, we can use in contrast to… 

And, like the phrases we’ll review in a moment, ‘in contrast to’ can be placed at the beginning of a sentence, as well as in the middle, to introduce a contrasting clause.

When placed at the beginning, we write a comma or insert a brief pause at the end of the clause. 

  • In contrast to my sister who prefers summer, // I prefer fall.

Take a look at this sentence:

  • This summer has been quite warm. Last summer wasn’t as warm.

Using a smooth transition, I can combine these sentences into an elegant sentence:

  • In contrast to last year, this summer has been quite warm.

 

Let’s try another. 

  • Older generations often prefer traditional music. Younger generations do not.

This time we will put the contrasting language in the middle with

  • Older generations often prefer traditional music in contrast to younger generations.

    Linking Word 2: On the other hand

    Similar to ‘in contrast to,’ this phrase is used to introduce an opposing or contrasting viewpoint or idea.

    This is a wonderful expression to use when considering different viewpoints, suggestions, or ideas in a brainstorming discussion.

    For example:

    • The company may save money by outsourcing, but, on the other hand, it may lose control over quality.
    • If I take this new job offer, I’ll have an opportunity to travel often for work, which I enjoy. On the other hand, I’m up for a rather generous promotion at my current company. I’m not sure what to do.

    Linking Word 3: Whereas

    Whereas is often used in written form and in more formal language.

    It is used to introduce a contrasting or opposing statement, particularly in comparison between two ideas, conditions, or facts.

    For example:

    • Cutting costs would be a good course of action for our business, whereas taking on another expense could strain us.
    • Whereas company profits skyrocketed last quarter, employee satisfaction plummeted.

    Linking Word 4: As opposed to

    With as opposed to we can emphasize a contrasting choice, preference, or distinction between two options.

    For example:

    • I prefer coffee as opposed to tea.
    • The company decided to invest in sustainable packaging as opposed to single-use plastics.
    • She decided to pursue a career in IT as opposed to Human Resources.

    Practice 1:

    Think about a past decision you made. For example, maybe you had to career choices. How would you use as opposed to highlighting the decision you made or distinguishing between your two options?

    In your sentence, you can follow the example of: She decided to pursue a career in IT as opposed to Human Resources.

     

    Practice 2:

    And here’s one more practice. Let’s work with the placement of the words as opposed to.

    How might you rephrase the following sentence to place ‘as opposed to’ at the beginning? 

    • Sarah has decided to stay a month longer in Indonesia as opposed to traveling home next week.


    Answer: As opposed to traveling home next week, Sarah decided to stay a month longer.

    Linking Word 5: Unlike

    Unlike is a straightforward, simple way to highlight differences between two or more things, such as items, people, or ideas.

    In other words, it is used to emphasize how one thing is not similar to or not like another.

    Here are a few examples:

    • Unlike her brother, she enjoys playing soccer and participating in outdoor sports.
      • Unlike previous years, we’re expecting a short, mild winter.

      Linking Word 6: Different from

      Similar to using unlike, we can use different from to indicate distinctions or variations between two things.

      However, it is a more neutral way to express differences. It doesn’t emphasize the difference; instead, it focuses on a variation. 

      Think about unlike as highlighting stronger differences, almost black and white differences, while different from more often indicates more subtle shades of grey.

      For example:

      • Her approach to problem-solving is different from Greta’s approach.
      • The climate in this region of the United States is different from what I’m used to.

      Linking Word 7: Not as … as

      We use not as … as to compare two things with the intent of highlighting that one is less than another or even inferior to another in some way.

      We can use this with adjectives/adverbs/verbs with this structure:

      • Not as [adjective/adverb/verb] as…

      For example:

      • Today is not as warm as it was yesterday.
      • I’m not as fond of spicy food as you are.
      • This software is not as efficient as the old version.

        Using More/Less than

        In the last example, we highlighted that something is less than in some way. And without a doubt, we can use the words more than or less than to compare and contrast as well. 

        This is particularly useful when you want to indicate the quantity or degree to which something is different. 

        They are used to show that one thing exceeds or falls short of another in some way.

        For example:

        • Her report was less detailed and focused than his.
        • The company’s proposal offered a more generous timeline than the others. We’ll be moving forward with the sale soon.
        • The restaurant was less impressive than we expected.

         

        Note: we can also use ‘not as…as’ when highlighting the degree to which one is less than another.

        • The restaurant was not as impressive as we expected.

        Practice What You Learned

        Try using the linking words you learned with this simple quiz.

        Complete the following sentence:

        “Honestly, I was disappointed. The movie was ____  ____ good _____ I thought it would be. I expected it to be ____ action-packed and engaging _____ it was. 

        (You’ll find the answers in the comments below.)

        Bonus Activity

        1. Think about a time when you had to choose between two things. Use ‘whereas’ to explain why you made your choice

        As always, you can share your comments and questions with me below.

        ~ Annemarie

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