Sunday, September 4, 2011

Lesson on cause and effect, reason and result

As very similar expressions are used to talk about cause and effect, they can sometimes be a bit confusing.
This lesson tries to deal with most aspects of cause and effect, reason and result, using lots of exercises.
  • Using because (of), since so and as
  • Using more formal expressions such as consequently
  • Different expressions to use with clauses and nouns
  • Getting to grips with result from / in etc
  • Getting those prepositions right
  • Participle clauses of cause and result
  • Using so and such to talk about cause and result

Click and Drop - Where you see this sign, mouse over for instructions

1. The basics

Exercise 1 - Look at these two sentences and decide whether each sentence is about cause or result, and then answer the questions that follow.

Johnny kicked a ball at the window.
The window broke.
1.Which came first chronologically, cause or result?
2.Which answers the question - What happened?
3.Which answers the question - Why did it happen?
4.Which can we put the conjunction because before?
5.Which can we put the conjunction so before?
The two most common linking words to talk about cause and effect are because (of) and so. There are also others which we will look at later.
Cause and effect are often used in business English.

Exercise 2a - Match the two halves of each sentence

Exercise 2b - Add a suitable linking expression from the box. Each is used twice

so   ·   because   ·   because of
1.Prices in general have risen
2.There has been relatively low inflation
3. the economy in this country is expanding
4.Foreign investment has been high
5.Inflation was very high
6. the economic crisis
afew companies wanted to invest.
bconsumer confidence is high.
cthe price of oil has risen.
dthe tax incentives being offered.
emany companies have set up here.
fmany companies are cutting back.

2. Other expressions

Exercise 3 - Now decide whether these expressions introduce a reason clause or a result clause. Be careful, some are not so obvious. Try doing it like this, where X is the reason, and Y the result:

  • because X - Johnny kicked the ball at the window (reason)
  • or
  • so Y - the window broke (result)
Now try it with since etc. Which sounds correct?
since ...
consequently ...
due to ...
as result of ...
results (resulting) in ...
as ...
leads (leading) to ...
owing to ...
stems (stemming) from ...
therefore ...
results (resulting) from ...
as a result ...

Exercise 4a - Match the sentence beginnings and endings

Exercise 4b - Fill the gaps with suitable expressions from the box

Consequently   ·   as   ·   due   ·   Owing to   ·   lead to
Since   ·   therefore   ·   stem from
1. I was in his neighbourhood,a to the awful weather.
2. This year's sales have not been at all good. bI decided to pay him a visit.
3. We didn't have a very good holiday,c I haven't seen it before.
4. my early flight,d a lot of new business.
5. Winning this contract couldeI had to get up at the crack of dawn.
6. His lack of self-confidence couldfI have decided, , to give you a second chance.
7. You made a big mistake, but you haven't been in this job very long.g, we are going to have to let some of you go.
8. I'd prefer to see the film with Penelope Cruzh problems he had in his childhood.

Clause or Noun phrase?

Exercise 5 - Decide whether these expressions can be followed by a clause (subject + verb etc) or a noun or its equivalent (noun phrase, pronoun, gerund)

  • Because the weather was so bad, we cancelled our picnic.
  • Because of the bad weather, we cancelled our picnic.
because ...
because of ...
so ...
since ...
consequently ...
due to ...
as result of ...
results in ...
as ...
leads to ...
owing to ...
stems from ...
as a result ...
therefore ...
What do you notice about all the expressions that are followed by a noun?

Hence, thus and given (that)

The adverbs hence (literally meaning 'from here') and thus (literally meaning 'in this way') can also be used with nouns and noun phrases.
  • This situation is losing us money, hence my concern
  • We need to act quickly, hence my calling this meeting.
  • We need a decision by tomorrow, thus the urgency.
  • United won their match today, thus keeping their title as League champions.
Thus, and perhaps less often hence, are also be used with normal clauses, with a similar meaning to therefore or consequently, and can be used in various ways:
  • We need to cut prices and thus increase sales.
  • Britain's debt is very high; thus all parties agree there have to be some cuts.
  • But each party has a different pespective on the problem. Thus, the question of where the cuts should come varies enormously.
  • The opposition has begun to see some weakness on the government side. Hence, they have begun to attack the government benches with more vigour.
The preposition given is used with nouns, while the conjunction given that is used with clauses:
  • Given the current situation, we need to hold back on salary increases.
  • Given that there was a substantial incease last year, this shouldn't cause too many problems.

What's the difference between a conjunction and a conjunctive adverb?
Conjunctions are words like because, since, as, given that (cause) and so (result) that are used to link a main clause and a subordinate clause in a sentence:
  • Because/since/as we were late, we took a taxi.
  • Given that we were late, we took a taxi.
  • We were late, so we took a taxi.
Some adverbs, such as therefore, can be used in a similar way, although the result is a bit more formal:
  • We were late, therefore we took a taxi.
But they are more often used as conjunctive adverbs to link two independent clauses or separate sentences, in which case they are usually marked off with commas:
  • Money is very short at the moment; as a result, this year's Christmas party will be held in a pub. I will of course buy the first round.
  • I'm trying to lose weight; consequently, it's orange juice for me, please.
  • Our sales have gone through the roof this month. We are, therefore, paying you an extra bonus in appreciation of all your hard work.
Note that this use is quite formal, and in informal conversation we are most likely to just use so.

Expressions with result

As we have seen in the last two exercises, the word result can be used in various ways, sometimes referring to the result, but also sometimes referring to the cause. Result can be both a verb and a noun.

Exercise 6 - Fill the gaps using the expressions in the box

as a result of   ·   resulting in   ·   the result of   ·   result in   ·   resulting   ·   the end result   ·   as a result   ·   resulted from
1.No 2 Machine has been out of action, considerable loss of production.
2.The mechanical problems seem to have poor maintenance.
3.Which in turn could be staff cuts in the maintenance department.
4. these cuts, the maintenance department is now overstretched.
5.And from this situation, they don't have enough time to deal with everything.
6.If we don't fix this problem soon, it could lost sales.
7.And as you know, of lost sales is lost profits.
8. , Ladies and Gentlemen, our jobs could be on the line.

Be careful with prepositions

Exercise 7 - Fill the gaps using the prepositions in the box

to   ·   of   ·   in   ·   from   ·   by
1.Eating too much junk food can lead child obesity.
2.Because this, the government is trying to control junk food advertising.
3.To a certain extent, the crisis of 2008 stemmed the bursting of the housing bubble.
4.But over-reliance on credit also contributed the situation.
5.His poor performance has been the cause much anxiety at team headquarters.
6.This has resulted their giving the No 1 position to his team-mate and rival.
7.The flight was delayed, owing a strike by air traffic controllers.
8.The strike was caused a breakdown in talks.
9.One consequence liberalisation seems to be a bigger gap between rich and poor.
10.Greater social tensions could be the result this inequality.
11.Many companies have cut back on English lessons due continuing uncertainty.
12.This uncertainty results the fact that the recovery has been very slow.

3. Participle clauses

Students are sometimes asked to identify whether a participle clause is about cause or result, and can get a bit confused (as can the teacher) because of course the sentence will be about both cause and effect. In this case we need to concentrate on the participle clause itself.

Exercise 8 - See if you can identify whether the participle clauses in these sentences refer to cause or result (try substituting because or so):

1.Johnny kicked a ball at the window, breaking it.
2.Kicking a ball at the window, Johnny broke it.
3.He forgot about the time, turning up to the meeting ten minutes late.
4.I didn't want to go to Paris, having been there the last three years running.
5.Woken in the night by a violent thunderstorm, he didn't get much sleep.
6.She was totally engrossed in her book, not noticing this was her bus stop.
7.Totally engrossed in her book, she didn't notice that this was her stop.
8.Not looking where he was going, he bumped into an old lady.
9.Neglected by his parents, he grew up without any sense of belonging.
10.He found a good deal on the Internet, saving himself a bit of money.
11.He didn't buy her a present, forgetting it was her birthday.
12.They were late leaving the house, nearly missing their train.

Exercise 9 - Complete the sentences by using a suitable participle form of a verb in the box. There is one verb which is used twice.

take   ·   see   ·   miss   ·   blow   ·   work   ·   forget   ·   arrive
1.He forgot to set his alarm clock, ten minutes late for work.
2. her coming out of a shop, he went over to talk to her.
3. this way and that by the wind, the leaves formed little piles.
4.He thought he was free at lunchtime, that he had an appointment.
5. hard at her thesis in the library, she didn't notice the time passing.
6.He had to go off to see a client, lunch for the third day running.
7. by surprise by his sudden appearance, she didn't know what to say.
8.Not much exercise, he's not very fit, which isn't very surprising.

So ... and such ... (that)

These expressions are also used to talk about cause and effect.

Exercise 10a - Match the sentence halves

Exercise 10b - Enter appropriate expressions from the box

such   ·   so much   ·   such a   ·   so
1.We were tired
2.It was lovely evening
3.The restaurant was good
4.She's fun to be with
5.It was fun
6.They performed badly
7.I made huge mess of things
8.He was impressed with their act
athat we went for a postprandial walk.
bthat I always enjoy her company.
cthat we went to bed immediately.
dthat I'd do it again anytime.
ethat he hired them on the spot.
fthat they were booed off stage.
gthat I doubt they'll ever ask me back.
hthat we decided go back the following night.

The reason why ... is because - for those who, like me, like language controversies.

Look at this sentence:
The reason why I asked if you were doing anything on Saturday evening is because we're having some people round for dinner, and we wondered if you'd like to come.
Do you see anything wrong with it, apart from the fact that it's rather long? I'll give you a clue: some people would find 2, maybe 3 'mistakes' with it, and the magic word is 'redundancy'.
  1. The reason why - the word why refers to the reason so some people think it is redundant.
  2. The reason ... is because ... - in the same way, some people think because is redundant, as it is also about the reason.
  3. The reason ... is because ... - more seriously perhaps, some people say this is grammatically incorrect. Why do you think that would be?
The grammatical 'problem' is that to be is a linking verb, and linking verbs are not supposed to be followed by an adverbial clause (because ...), but rather by a noun clause, for example a 'that ...' clause, which counts as a noun clause. So we have two choices: either change the because to that
The reason I asked if you were doing anything on Saturday evening is that we're having some people round for dinner, and we wondered if you'd like to come.
or change the verb to be to a non-linking verb, in which case an adverbial clause is just fine:
I asked if you were doing anything on Saturday evening because we're having some people round for dinner, and we wondered if you'd like to come.

But look at this:

The reason why so few marriages are happy is because young ladies spend their time in making nets, not in making cages. Jonathan Swift
You mean the same Jonathan Swift that wrote Gulliver's Travels? Wasn't he a great writer, part of the great tradition of English Literature?
The very same. In fact the expression the reason why has been used since the 13th century and is usually regarded as being thoroughly idiomatic. (Idioms can break all the rules they like!). Some
The reason is ... because also has a long history, and although Fowler (3rd edition) suggests that the reason why ... is because is going over the top a bit, redundancy-wise, it interestingly makes absolutely no mention of the grammar point.
Indeed, the Merriam-Webster Dictionary of English Usage (MWDEU) suggests that this rule was conjured up by people who didn't like the redundancy aspect, just to make their case stronger. MWDEU is not overly concerned about the reason why ... is because, noting that why and because are often divided by a lot of intervening text, as in the Swift example above.
But the grammar nerds will hear nothing of it, redundancy seeming to be the buzzword of the moment.
Personally I find that the reason ... is because often sounds more natural than the reason ... is that, but in written work it's probably better to go for the latter. In fact I think I've read somewhere that the use of is because over is that is about 2:1 in speech, but it's the other way round in writing.


  • Ex 1. - cause, result, 1. cause, 2. result, 3. cause, 4. cause, 5. result
  • Ex 2a. 1. c, 2. b, 3. e, 4. d, 5. a, 6. f
  • Ex 2b. 1. because, 2. so, 3. Because, 4. because of, 5. so, 6. Because of
  • Ex 3. - 1. reason, 2. result, 3. reason, 4. reason, 5. result, 6. reason, 7. result, 8. reason, 9. reason, 10. result, 11. reason, 12, result
  • Ex 4a. - 1. b, 2. g, 3. a, 4. e, 5. d, 6. h, 7. f, 8. c
  • Ex 4b. - 1. Since, 2. Consequently, 3. due, 4. Owing to, 5. lead to, 6. stem from, 7. therefore, 8. as
  • Ex 5. - 1. clause, 2. noun, 3. clause, 4. clause, 5. clause, 6. noun, 7. noun, 8. noun, 9. clause, 10. noun, 11. noun, 12. noun, 13. clause, 14. clause
  • Ex 6. - 1. resulting in, 2. resulted from, 3. the result of, 4. As a result of, 5. resulting, 6. result in, 7. the end result, 8. As a result
  • Ex 7. - 1. to, 2. of, 3. from, 4. to, 5. of, 6. in, 7. to, 8. by, 9. of, 10. of, 11. to, 12. from
  • Ex 8. - 1. result, 2. cause, 3. result, 4. cause, 5. cause, 6. result, 7. cause, 8. cause, 9. cause, 10. result, 11. cause, 12. result
  • 9. 1. c, 2. a, 3. h, 4. b, 5. d, 6. f, 7. g, 8. e
  • 9. - 1. arriving, 2. Seeing, 3. Blown, 4. forgetting, 5. Working, 6. missing, 7. Taken, 8. taking
  • Ex 1. - 1. so, 2. such a, 3. so, 4. such, 5. so much, 6. so, 7. such a, 8. so

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You can make a teacher copy with answers by clicking on 'Show All'. Make sure you 'Clear All' before printing student copies. Or you can print normally and the answers will appear on a separate page (Page 12). The lesson is on Pages 1-9. I strongly recommend doing a Print Preview first.

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