12 Basic Cohesive Devices in Formal English Writing (with Chinese translation)

I wrote this blog entry mainly for my Chinese students who have trouble with some basic cohesive devices in English – e.g. firstly/at first, lastly/at last, finally/ultimately, etc. However the word and sentence translations here I’m sure will also be helpful for Chinese learners.

This is not supposed to be a comprehensive list of formal cohesive devices, but rather a starting point for students, with a special focus on time/logic-related adverbs.

Do leave your comments re accuracy and additions as always.

12 Basic Cohesive Devices in Formal English Writing (with Chinese translation)

1. Firstly – 首先
English synonyms: First, in the first place, to begin with, to start with/off, first of all, first and foremost.
Chinese synonyms: 第一.
English example sentence: Firstly it is important to note that this issue has not received the attention it deserves.
Chinese translation: 首先,值得注意的是这个问题没有得到足够的重视。

2. At first – 起初
English synonyms: Originally, initially, to begin with, to start with/off.
Chinese synonyms: 起头、最初、一开始.
English Example sentence: At first many were reluctant to admit there was a problem.
Chinese translation: 起初,很多人都不愿承认问题的存在。

3. Often – 经常
English synonyms: Frequently.
Chinese synonyms: 频繁、常常、时常、往往.
English example sentence: Often those in power try to sweep the problem under the carpet.
Chinese translation: 通常,执政的人会图掩盖问题。

4. Rarely – 难得
English synonyms: Sporadically, seldom, once in a while, barely, hardly, scarcely, infrequently.
Chinese synonyms: 很少.
English example sentence: Rarely has this issue been the focus in mainstream media.
Chinese translation: 这个问题很少成为主流媒体关注的焦点。

5. Normally – 通常
English synonyms: Usually.
Chinese synonyms: 平素、照理.
English example sentence: Normally the press directs its focus to other types of issues.
Chinese translation: 通常情况下,媒体会把焦点转移到别的问题上去。

6. Eventually – 最终
English synonyms: In the end, in time, in due course.
Chinese synonyms: 最后.
English example sentence: Eventually it is hoped that governments around the world can reach a consensus to deal with this problem.
Chinese translation: 希望各国政府能够针对这个问题最终达成一致。

7. After all – 毕竟
English synonyms: Ultimately, when all is said and done, at the end of the day, in the end, in the long run, in the final analysis.
Chinese synonyms: 终究、终归、归根结底、说到底.
English example sentence: After all mutual trust is the basis for international cooperation.
Chinese translation: 毕竟相互之间的信任是国际合作的基础。

8. At last – 终于
English synonyms: At long last, in the end, finally.
Chinese synonyms: 总算.
English example sentence: At last governments and organisations around the world have taken the first steps in tackling this issue.
Chinese translation: 终于,全世界的政府和组织迈出了解决这个问题的第一步。

9. As it turns out – 原来
English synonyms: …all along, …originally….
Chinese synonyms: 本来、始终、一直.
English example sentence: As it turns out however, the legislation has been the subject of much criticism.
Chinese translation: 原来该法规一直是公众批评的对象。

10. Basically – 根本上
English synonyms: Fundamentally, to put it simply.
Chinese synonyms: 大体上、总的来说.
English example sentence: Basically the general public have found it difficult to understand the complexities of the new law.
Chinese translation: 根本上,公众表示新的法律有些复杂,很难让人理解。

11. Lastly – 最后
English synonyms: Finally, last but not least.
Chinese synonyms: 最终.
English example sentence: Lastly there is another issue which needs to be addressed that has long been neglected by the general public.
Chinese translation: 最后,还有一个问题需要提出。这个问题被公众忽视了很久。

12. In conclusion – 结论
English synonyms: In conclusion, to sum up, in summary.
Chinese synonyms: 总结、总之.
English example sentence: In conclusion much more could be done to raise awareness in the community about this problem.
Chinese translation: 结论:为了唤起社区对这个问题的注意,还有很多事情需要去做。

7 Comments to "12 Basic Cohesive Devices in Formal English Writing (with Chinese translation)"

  1. Bo's Gravatar Bo
    19/08/2011 - 2:18 pm | Permalink

    #3 better be translated as “当政者往往会企图掩盖问题”

  2. helen's Gravatar helen
    21/08/2011 - 10:04 am | Permalink

    impressive! keep the hard work!
    to be perfect, No.11 could be as this ‘最后,还有一个已经被公众忽视很久的问题(需)要提(出)。’

  3. Kaiwen's Gravatar Kaiwen
    03/10/2011 - 1:15 pm | Permalink

    “Basically – 根本上” Have you considered using 基本上 here? It is used very, very frequently, much more so than 根本上 in my experience.

  4. lin's Gravatar lin
    15/09/2013 - 3:51 am | Permalink


  5. Oliver's Gravatar Oliver
    05/03/2017 - 12:22 am | Permalink

    Hi,i am a Chinese student of Melbourne Uni, this essay is really helpful to me. But i have a question about it. I found that the most of your English samples just connect cohesive devices with following sentences dirctly without a comma, so i would like to know if this is also right? In another word, whether those mentioned cohesive divices should follw with a comma in formal English writting? I hope that i make sense. Thank you!

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