I am still learning English. My English language professor has given me an assignment on coherence and cohesion. But it seems difficult to me. I've consulted my friend and he told me:

Cohesion and coherence are terms used in discourse analysis and text linguistics to describe the properties of written texts.

A text may be cohesive without necessarily being coherent: Cohesion does not spawn coherence. Cohesion is determined by lexically and grammatically overt intersentential relationships, whereas coherence is based on semantic relationships.

Phew too difficult! Can anyone please explain the meanings, differences and examples of these to me, in simple and easy English?

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    The difference between "coherence" and "cohesion" is a bit subtle - on the face of it, the words sound like they ought to mean the same thing. Thus, I don't understand all the "off topic" votes. Anybody care to explain? – Marthaª Nov 16 '11 at 17:12
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    @Marthaª: I don't understand them either. It's a perfectly reasonable question, to which I have given what I believe to be the correct answer, which - who knows? - may even be of wider interest. – Barrie England Nov 16 '11 at 17:17
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    @JSBᾶngs: OK, explain please. How is this not about English language and usage? – Marthaª Nov 16 '11 at 17:23
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    @Martha, The OP isn't asking for a general disambiguation of the terms "cohesion" and "coherence". He's asking specifically with regards to text linguistics, making me think that this belongs over on linguistics.se – JSBձոգչ Nov 16 '11 at 18:02
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    Possible duplicate Cohesive vs. coherent linguistics.stackexchange.com/questions/1453/… -- generally, linguistics.stackexchange.com/search?q=coherence+cohesion – Kris Dec 17 '12 at 10:19

Cohesion describes the way in which a text is tied together by linguistic devices, such as And so we see . . . , Additonally . . . , Therefore . . . , However . . . and On the other hand . . .

A text has coherence if its constituent sentences follow on one from the other in an orderly fashion so that the reader can make sense of the entire text.

  • Nice answer! Inclusion of a small example for the "coherence" part would be great though. – Irfan Nov 28 '12 at 14:08
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    Time flies like an arrow. On the other hand, fruit flies like a banana. Cohesive but incoherent? – Edwin Ashworth Dec 17 '12 at 10:17
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    @Edwin Ashworth. I would say so. A little, but not entirely, like Colorless green ideas sleep furiously. – Barrie England Dec 17 '12 at 10:22
  • I think the former of our two quotees may have been more influential. I'm not sure in which way. Perhaps the one the women went. – Edwin Ashworth Dec 17 '12 at 11:18
  • @BarrieEngland any example of coherence? – AlphaMale Mar 12 '13 at 7:33

Cohesion is "the glue that sticks a sentence to another in a paragraph or a paragraph to another in a text."

A text can be cohesive through the use of the following devices:

  1. Repetition. In sentence B (the second of any two sentences), repeat a word from sentence A.
  2. Synonymy. If direct repetition is too obvious, use a synonym of the word you wish to repeat. This strategy is call 'elegant variation.'
  3. Antonymy. Using the 'opposite' word, an antonym, can also create sentence cohesion, since in language antonyms actually share more elements of meaning than you might imagine.
  4. Parallelism. Repeat a sentence structure. This technique is the oldest, most overlooked, but probably the most elegant method of creating cohesion.
  5. Transitions. Use a conjunction or conjunctive adverb to link sentences with particular logical relationships. There are many kinds of transitions.

Coherence means that the text is easy to read and understand because the text follows a certain kind of logical order and the organization of ideas is systematical and logical.

Some kinds of logical order:

chronological order, spatial order, order of importance


The answers here are good, but examples are missing. Example of a coherent text that is not cohesive:

Summer was over. The boy went to school. The building: Peter had never liked it. All the other class members became easy targets of the lawmaker's son's gun. At 8:15 the massacre began. 7 children would not go home. The last words of the juvenile perpetrator: "I hate Mondays".

Example of a cohesive text that is not coherent:

You may not fully understand the reasons underlying the incident, so let me try to explain. Namely, it may help your understanding to know that Peter had not been happy about the oranges, after all. Nor was the other Peter ever again able to fly after the aforementioned fruity explanation. Then, weeks later, he realised that it was because my fruit and wings rationale is lacking in substance. If that is all, you may find it hard to get the point of what I'm driving at. Nevertheless, I think it was worth trying to explain.

As should be clear from these examples, coherence without cohesion can be an effective literary technique and in fact is often used that way. Whereas cohesion without coherence is just weird and confusing, and is of very limited use in literature.

  • The OP must be in a very high level English class to be asked to distinguish between cohesion and coherence - at least 99% of native English speakers would be unaware of these terms, including me. Hence, it takes a non-native English speaker to give the examples given here - and I'm presuming he's non-native because his name betrays him to probably be German. Also, because he's non-native, I presume that the examples are not of his devising. Lastly, i hope that this comment is both cohesive and coherent, like all text should be (I can't think why any text would usefully not be both). – jimalton May 7 '19 at 0:27
  • I plead guilty to the charge of being German, but not guilty to the charge of being a plagiarist. – user86291 May 7 '19 at 9:47
  • I don't think the distinction between coherence and cohesion is ordinarily a part of any English class for non-native speakers. They are only clearly differentiated when used as technical terms in linguistics. I would guess that OP's professor just used the above definitions as example material for advanced reading comprehension. – user86291 May 7 '19 at 9:53
  • Herr Adler - I congratulate you on your devised examples that show cohesion without coherence and vice versa, but maybe using the term plagiarist is too harsh - I naturally assumed that an ordinary non-native speaker would have come across those examples in his learning, but someone who could devise those examples is, perhaps, not so ordinary. (By the way, on re-reading my first comment I see that it is not as cohesive as I hoped: I used "i" instead of "I" in my last sentence!) – jimalton May 8 '19 at 10:19
  • I must apologise for my inability to leave this nit unpicked, but if you think that a trivial misspelling affects cohesion (or coherence, for that matter), then my examples may not have been as effective as I thought. Cohesion just measures how often sentences are connected through connecting words such as "therefore", "because" or "nevertheless". Coherence measures whether the sentences make obvious sense when read together (e.g. tell a story or explain a problem), as opposed to being completely random and unrelated. – user86291 May 10 '19 at 13:45

Coherence concerns text unity whereas cohesion deals with sentence unity.

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    Could you please briefly elaborate? What is meant by "text unity"? – Zairja Nov 6 '12 at 21:20
  • @Zairja: an entire text made up of many sentences? – Mitch Nov 6 '12 at 21:55
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    Sounds very interesting, could you elaborate, and maybe add references? – Kris Dec 17 '12 at 10:26
  • @Dina can you please show any examples of both showing differences? – AlphaMale Mar 12 '13 at 7:34

To my understanding, the text can be coherent even though there is no cohesiveness in the text itself.

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    But pray, why? :) – Kris Dec 17 '12 at 10:26

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