On June 4, 2016, a question in the writing and language section of SAT helped to dismay more 80% of the students. Still, the other 20% on that day spells luck more than know. The question asked us to choose one of the provided connecting words:
Italy’s Tower of Pisa has been leaning southward since the initial stages of its construction over 800 years ago. [Indeed/Therefore/Nevertheless/However] if the tower’s construction had not taken two centuries and involved significant breaks due to war and civil unrest, which allowed the ground beneath the tower to settle, the tower would likely have collapsed before it was completed.
Almost all students were able to eliminate one option (Therefore) that suggests a consequential relation between the two sentences. Some savvy readers among the students were able to eliminate a second one (Nevertheless) that doesn’t seem to belong to the context. They didn’t know why. At last, all who come down to choose between However and Indeed felt it a mission impossible. We have no doubt that SAT has raised its standard in the language sections. Choosing a connection word is one of toughest job even for the professional writers.
Question above calls you to tell apart among the connection words. First of all you should have known that these words are divided into big functional groups such as addition, opposition, condition and conclusion. For example, “therefore” spells a connection from condition to result whereas “after all” spells conclusive summary after much of details.
When it comes to within a functional group, words are often embedded with their subtleties. It is exactly the situation among however, indeed, nevertheless and although in spelling the contrasting relations between two sentences or clauses.
1) ALTHOUGH is general use connector in the opposition group, linking two complete sentence structures in contrasting. As long as the two linked with although are complete in their sentence structure, we are good. See the example below：
- Although I've been to his house several times, I still can't remember how to get there.
- Although I haven’t been to his house for many years, I still remember how to get there.
Occasionally, although may be used to lead an adjective, participle or noun term, these terms can be easily transformed into a complete sentence by assuming the subject of the main sentence. This use is rather a style of abbreviation than a grammar rule. For example:
- Although (yogurt was) disgusting initially, yogurt soon became my favorite desert.
- Although (Steven was) a college student, Steven discovered a cancer drug that earned him a national fame.
2) HOWEVER, next in this roll, is a general use connector that often leads the message from a positive tone/feature into a negative tone/feature. Unlike although that only leads the first idea within a transition, however only leads the second idea. When people tend to give the first idea a positive tone and the second a negative one, it creates the illusion that however often leads a transition in one direction. For example:
- Steven has made all As in math throughout the semester. However, he failed his final in that class.
- Steven failed his final in math. However, he still made it an overall A with his hardworking throughout the semester.
- For thousands of years people had thought the Sun orbits the Earth. However, Copernicus found it is opposite.
This rule is not always, but often, in reality. If you use however in transition from negative to positive, you would not be necessarily wrong. So I would also treat this as a style, rather than a rule. But remember, SAT is increasingly test you on style.
3) NEVERTHELESS and INDEED are both used in transition from a negative tone or feature to a positive one. There is a subtle difference between these two. Nevertheless denotes the negative feature of something whose main feature is still positive. Indeed, on the other hand, denotes a negative feature that somehow can also be regarded as positive. Here are the examples:
- Steven failed his midterm and final in math. Nevertheless, his hardworking throughout the semester has earned enough As and extra credits to make an overall A for the class.
- Steven failed his midterm in math. Indeed, the test gave him an opportunity to reassess and improve he studied and finally succeeded in the final.
Go back to the Pisa Tower question in the beginning of this blog article. It is a negative thing that the construction of the tower took too long. But there is a positive effect of this negative—allowing the ground to settle thus preventing its otherwise collapse. So it is a positive side of a negative feature, indeed is the best.