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Power of the “Word”

I See Where This Is Going: Transitions

Let’s say you ask someone out on a date. Which of the following responses would you rather receive?

I really like you, and…

OR

I really like you, but…

I think we’d all much rather hear the first. And why is that? Each sentence only has five words, but the one that’s changing makes a big difference. Words like “and” and “but” are what we call transition words, and they can change the whole complexion of a sentence.

What would come next? Both sentences start the same way, but they will veer off in very different directions.

I really like you, and…

What might come next?

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This word “and” is always linking distinct things. In fact, the word is so common that we’ve got some different signs for it: & and + are the main ones. The word will always signify continuation or addition. In other words, the words on either side of an “and” will always somehow be in the same category.

In this case, the word “and” is separating two parts of a sentence, so the “and” tells us that those two parts will be linked and continuous somehow. We call words like “and” same direction transitions.

Therefore, the second part of the sentence will somehow be a continuation of the first idea: I really like you. We’d all like to hear what comes after this! I really like you, and I’d love to go on a date with you. I really like you, and I’ve been hoping all semester that you would ask. I really like you, and I’m looking forward to getting to know you better.

Now, let’s say you go on that date. You’re unsure of yourself. The movie you wanted to see is sold out. The food at the restaurant is no good. You get to the person’s house late. This time, after the date is over, the person turns to you and says,

I really like you, but…

What might come next?

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Uh-oh. We probably don’t want to hear what’s coming next. Notice how that single word but allows us to predict what will come next in the sentence. Even though the person still “really likes you,” you know something to the contrary is coming next. I really like you, but I think we should just be friends. I really like you, but I don’t think we should go out again. I really like you, but your breath stinks. All plausible, and all cued by that one little, dreaded word.