Composing with Conjunctive Adverbs

Posted on Tuesday, October 15, 2019, at 11:00 pm

Many of us probably use conjunctive adverbs without being aware we’re doing so. Further understanding their role aids our precision with their inclusion in our writing.

Conjunctive adverbs are adverbs that connect related main (independent) clauses. They provide a transition between sentences, typically by comparing and contrasting statements or demonstrating cause and effect. They include words such as:

accordingly henceforth next
afterward however otherwise
also indeed plus
anyhow instead similarly
besides later still
consequently likewise then
further meanwhile therefore
furthermore moreover thus
hence nevertheless yet

Helena is the least experienced teacher on the faculty; however, her lesson plans achieve the greatest results. [Conjunctive adverb sets up comparison and contrast.]

I spent all of my paycheck last night; consequently, I won’t be able to get an oil change today. [Conjunctive adverb establishes cause and effect.]

As shown in the examples above, conjunctive adverbs that connect main clauses are preceded by a semicolon that separates the first clause from the second. The conjunctive adverb that begins the second clause is then followed by a comma.

If we want a starker separation between clauses for greater emphasis, we can divide them with a period. A comma would still follow the conjunctive adverb starting the second main clause.

Example: Jurgis wants to leave right now. Otherwise, he might miss his train.

We should also note how conjunctive adverbs differ from coordinating conjunctions (e.g., and, but, for, nor, or, so, yet) and subordinating conjunctions (e.g., if, because) in joining main clauses. Coordinating and subordinating conjunctions have a fixed position within a sentence and cannot be moved.

The Shanahans don’t have a lot of money, yet they give all they can to help different charities. [Moving the coordinating conjunction yet to another position would produce an ungrammatical sentence.]

If I complete three more courses, I will earn my college degree. [Moving the subordinating conjunction if to another position would result in an ungrammatical sentence.]

Conversely, a conjunctive adverb can occupy different positions in the second main clause without losing clarity or becoming ungrammatical.

The Shanahans don’t have a lot of money; nevertheless, they give all they can to help different charities. [The conjunctive adverb begins the second main clause.]

The Shanahans don’t have a lot of money; they nevertheless give all they can to help different charities. [The conjunctive adverb separates the subject and the verb in the second main clause.]

The Shanahans don’t have a lot of money; they give all they can to help different charities nevertheless. [The conjunctive adverb concludes the second main clause.]

With a strong grasp of conjunctive adverbs, we can be even more versatile in crafting fluent, eloquent sentences that keep readers conjoined with our words.


Pop Quiz

Using what you’ve learned in this article, try rewriting each sentence pair with a conjunctive adverb that relates them. Our answers will be possible treatments that may differ from yours.

1. The movie is extremely boring. It is made in bad taste.

2. Study for your math test. You might get a bad grade.

3. I hear you. I don’t understand you.

4. No one won the lottery. The jackpot increased.



Pop Quiz Answers

1. Possible treatment: The movie is extremely boring; it is also made in bad taste.

2. Possible treatment: Study for your math test; otherwise, you might get a bad grade.

3. Possible treatment: I hear you; however, I don’t understand you.

4. Possible treatment: No one won the lottery; thus, the jackpot increased.

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