Disjuncts

Disjuncts are an important part of English grammar as they provide extra information in a sentence. Let's have a look at what they are, the different types, and examples of disjuncts.

Disjuncts Disjuncts

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Table of contents

    Disjunct Definition

    In English grammar, a disjunct is a word or phrase that explicitly expresses someone's attitude towards the manner or content of the text or sentence. Disjuncts are a type of adverbial.

    An adverbial is a word or phrase that acts as an adverb in a sentence. It provides further information about the verb, adjective, or adverb that it modifies. For example, 'On Mondays, I work from home.'

    Examples of Disjuncts

    Let's look at an example of a disjunct:

    'Unfortunately, we have rejected your application.'

    In this sentence, the speaker is not saying the application was rejected in an unfortunate way but rather that it is unfortunate the application was rejected. The speaker has therefore expressed their stance (they feel it is unfortunate) on the content of the sentence (the rejection of the application).

    The adverb 'unfortunately' is being used to modify the whole sentence. If we remove the disjunct then the sentence still makes sense by itself ('we have rejected your application').

    Here are some other examples of adverbials that can be used as disjuncts:

    • 'Honestly, I'm too tired to work' (the speaker expresses that they are being honest when they say that they are too tired).

    • 'Surprisingly, nobody was there when Jane entered the room' (the disjunct expresses that the speaker's stance on the sentence that they are about to say is surprise).

    • 'Apparently, I'm getting taller every day' (the speaker shows their stance about the manner of the sentence 'I'm getting taller every day').

    • 'Hopefully,* we'll be able to make the event' (the speaker is not saying they will be able to make the event in a hopeful way, the speaker is hopeful that they will be able to make the event).

    • 'I will have some dessert, actually' (the speaker expresses what they are saying as a matter of fact).

    • 'Frankly, he doesn't meet our standards' (the speaker expresses that they are being sincere about the subject).

    *There has been some dispute over whether 'hopefully' is truly a disjunct. As a disjunct, 'hopefully' is used to mean 'I say in a hopeful manner' rather than 'I hope'.

    Examples of disjuncts commonly used in the English language include:

    • clearly
    • truthfully
    • fortunately/unfortunately
    • apparently
    • strangely
    • in my opinion
    • certainly
    • in theory

    There are other disjuncts that are not sentence adverbials. We will explore these examples when we consider the two types of disjuncts.

    Disjuncts at the beginning of a sentence are followed by a comma e.g. 'unfortunately, she couldn't come to the party'.

    Disjuncts can also occur in the middle of the sentence, these have a comma before and after. This separates the disjunct from the main content of the sentence e.g. 'the best dog, in my opinion, is a golden retriever'.

    Disjuncts that come at the end of the sentence have a comma before them e.g. 'the parrot is a genius, so they say'.

    Types of Disjuncts

    There are two main types of disjunct. These are:

    1. Style disjuncts

    2. Content disjuncts

    Let's look at both of these in more detail!

    Style disjuncts

    The first type of disjuncts are style disjuncts.

    A style disjunct expresses how the speaker/writer wants to be understood and perceived.

    • 'Personally, I wouldn't care.' (the speaker conveys what they're saying as being their personal opinion).

    • 'To be honest, I missed your call.' (the speaker conveys what they're saying as being honest/truthful).

    • 'With respect, that's not your decision to make.' (the speaker conveys what they're saying as being respectful).

    In all three examples, the speaker is commenting on the manner or 'style' in which they are speaking, which in turn impacts the way their message is received by others.

    Content Disjuncts

    The second type of disjunct is content disjuncts.

    A content disjunct expresses the way the speaker is commenting on the content of what is being mentioned in the sentence. The most common content disjuncts typically reflect the degree to which the speaker is certain or doubtful of what they are saying.

    • 'Without a doubt, there will be enough seats for all of you.' (the speaker conveys the content of what they are saying as undoubtable)

    • 'Obviously, she doesn't intend to help.' (the speaker conveys the content of what they are saying as obvious).

    • 'What's stranger, the family didn't even know she was missing.' (the speaker conveys the content of what they are saying as strange)

    In all three examples, the speaker is commenting on the content of what they are saying. In a way, the speaker indicates to the listener how they should perceive the content of what they are saying.

    Content disjuncts, disjuncts, StudySmarterFig. 1 - Disjuncts indicate how the listener should receive a message.

    What is the difference between style and content disjuncts?

    Style disjuncts reflect how the speaker wants others to understand them and the manner in which they are speaking. This may be the degree of honesty, personal opinion, urgency, etc.

    Content disjuncts don't give information about how the speaker themselves want to be viewed by others but rather how the speaker wants others to view the content of what they are saying.

    Guess which of the following is a style disjunct and which is a content disjunct...

    'Quite frankly, I don't care'.

    'Luckily, he didn't forget 'the keys'

    Have you got it?...

    The first sentence, 'quite frankly, I don't care', is a style disjunct as the speaker is expressing that they being frank about what they say (i.e. saying it in a frank manner).

    The second sentence, 'luckily, he didn't forget his keys' is a content disjunct as the speaking is stating that the content of the sentence (remembering the keys) was lucky.

    Difference between a Disjunct and an Adjunct

    Both adjuncts and disjuncts are adverbials, however, their use in the English language differs.

    Adjuncts are well integrated into the structure of the sentence whereas disjuncts are usually set apart from the rest of the sentence (which is often shown through the use of commas).

    'Callum was talking loudly'

    In this sentence, the adverb 'loudly' is an adjunct as it is well integrated into the structure of the sentence and may also be placed elsewhere ('Callum was loudly talking'). Overall, it provides extra information about the way in which Callum was talking.

    While an adjunct typically serves to modify a verb phrase, a disjunct typically modifies the entire sentence.

    Let's look at an example:

    1. Adjunct: Jenny was talking seriously
    2. Disjunct: Seriously, Jenny was talking all night

    In example 1, 'seriously' modifies the verb 'talking' (i.e. the talking was serious).

    In example 2, 'seriously' modifies the whole sentence (i.e. the speaker is being serious when they say she was talking all night).

    Sometimes there are words within a sentence that can be interpreted as either a disjunct or adjunct. The example below demonstrates this:

    'Ben strangely moved towards the door.'

    Here, it is unclear whether the speaker is implying it is strange that Ben moved towards the door, or whether Ben moved towards the door in a strange way.

    The former interpretation makes 'strangely' a disjunct as 'strangely' would be modifying the entire sentence. However, the latter interpretation would make 'strangely' an adjunct, as 'strangely' would only be modifying the verb 'moved' (i.e. moved in a strange way).

    Both adjuncts and disjuncts add extra information to the sentence, however, the sentence still makes grammatical sense if we remove them. For example, 'Ben moved towards the door' states that the fact that the event occurred.

    Difference between a Disjunct and a Conjunct

    A conjunct is another type of adverbial. They differ from disjuncts and adjuncts as they are used to conjoin/connect one part of a sentence to another rather than providing information about the content or manner of a sentence. They are not considered to be essential and sentences still make sense if conjuncts are removed. However, they are useful in connecting sentences and suggesting a relationship between the two.

    'It was sunny. Therefore, we decided to go for a hike'

    'He was first in the race. In other words, he's a quick runner.'

    Both of these sentences are connected by the conjuncts 'therefore' and 'in other words' that join the sentences and suggest a relationship between the two. If these are omitted, both sentences still make sense alone.

    The name of each type of adverbial hints at their role in a sentence. Consider the following:

    • Disjunct- the name suggests that the adverbial is disjoined and distinct.
    • Adjunct- the name suggests that the adverbial is additional/added information.
    • Conjunct- the name suggests that the adverbial is conjoined or combined.

    Disjuncts - Key Takeaways

    • A disjunct is a word or phrase that explicitly expresses someone's attitude towards the manner or content of the text or sentence. Disjuncts are a type of adverbial.

    • There are two types of disjuncts called style disjuncts and content disjuncts.

    • A style disjunct expresses how the speaker/writer wants to be understood and perceived.

    • A content disjunct expresses the way the speaker is commenting on the content of what is being mentioned in the sentence.

    • Adjuncts are well integrated into the structure of the sentence whereas disjuncts are usually set apart from the rest of the sentence (which is often shown through the use of commas).

    Frequently Asked Questions about Disjuncts

    What is a disjunct in English grammar?


    A disjunct is a word or phrase that explicitly expresses someone's attitude towards the manner or content of the text or sentence. Disjuncts are a type of adverbial. 

    What is a disjunct example?

    An example of a disjunct is 'surprisingly, nobody was there when Jane entered the room' (the disjunct expresses that the speaker's stance on the sentence that they are about to say is surprise).

    What is the difference between disjunct and conjunct?

    Conjuncts differ from as they are used to conjoin/connect one part of a sentence to another rather than providing information about the content or manner of a sentence.  

    What is disjunct and adjunct?

    Both adjuncts and disjuncts are adverbials. Adjuncts are well integrated into the structure of the sentence whereas disjuncts are usually set apart from the rest of the sentence (which is often shown through the use of commas). 

    What are examples of adverbials?

    Types of adverbials include disjuncts, adjuncts, conjuncts, complements, some propositions, and more!

    Test your knowledge with multiple choice flashcards

    A disjunct is a type of adverbial. True or false?

    Which of the following contains an example of a disjunct?

    Which of the following contains an example of a disjunct?

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