Glossary: cohesive device


Cohesive devices are words used to show how the different parts of a text fit together. In other words, they create cohesion.

Some examples of cohesive devices are:

  • determiners and pronouns, which can refer back to earlier words
  • conjunctions and adverbs, which can make relations between words clear
  • ellipsis of expected words.
  • Julia's dad bought her a football. The football was expensive! [determiner; refers us back to a particular football]
  • Joe was given a bike for Christmas. He liked it very much. [the pronouns refer back to Joe and the bike]
  • We'll be going shopping before we go to the park. [conjunction; makes a relationship of time clear]
  • I'm afraid we're going to have to wait for the next train. Meanwhile, we could have a cup of tea. [adverb; refers back to the time of waiting]
  • Where are you going? [_] To school! [ellipsis of the expected words I'm going; links the answer back to the question]


Cohesion refers to the grammatical relationships that exist within a text between words, phrases, etc. When we talk only of the semantic links, i.e. the meaning links, we speak of coherence.

Here we focus on cohesion. However, before we do so, consider the following passage:

The sun is shining. Who is your neighbour? I left the washing in the machine. Without doubt she will succeed.

Discourse structure

Speakers and writers often use a range of structures and devices to signpost their arguments. These signposts link what they are saying to what they have said before, and to what they are going to say.

Discourse structure is a term used to describe the way in which an entire text is organised – for example, how language is used in a poem, in a newspaper article, or in a speech designed to read aloud.


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