Even though conjunctive adverbs are not actually a separate part of speech, we’ve given them their own entry. That’s because being able to recognize conjunctive adverbs will help you avoid some common grammatical errors.
A conjunctive adverb is an adverb that functions like a conjunction. Simply put, it ties together two independent clauses or sentences.
Here’s a list of the more common ones, organized by function:
|Adding Information||Cause and Effect|
You might be wondering how these words are different from regular conjunctions. One way to distinguish them is to observe that conjunctive adverbs can be moved around in the sentence, whereas conjunctions have to stay in the same place:
We bought an old tent trailer. However, it takes forever to set up.
We bought an old tent trailer. It takes forever to set up, however.
By contrast, in the following sentence the conjunction and can go in only one spot:
We went to a board game café and played a game of Ticket to Ride.
How to use conjunctive adverbs
Conjunctive adverbs are the big boys of conjunctions. They do the heavy work of connecting separate clauses or sentences. And that’s why they typically come after a period or a semi-colon, and not after a comma.
Wrong: We see very few birds on our feeder, however, that’s because there is no feed left.
Right: We see very few birds on our feeder; however, that’s because there is no feed left.
Right: We see very few birds on our feeder. However, that’s because there is no feed left.
So be careful that you don’t create a comma splice when you use a conjunctive adverb.
The last rule to remember is that conjunctive adverbs are often set off with commas. Note in the following examples that when the conjunctive adverb comes later in the clause it has commas before and after it:
Moreover, Queen Elizabeth I objected to John Knox’s opinions about female rulers.
My parents, meanwhile, were on vacation in Hawaii.
Iron Man 3, by contrast, did not appeal to me.
Finally, you are often allowed to drop the commas if you feel that sounds more natural. This is especially the case when the conjunctive adverb is shorter or comes later in the clause:
Meanwhile the sun was setting.
Your argument is therefore rubbish.