What is a conjunctive adverb?
Conjunctive adverbs (also called linking adverbs or connecting adverbs) are a specific type of conjunction. Conjunctions are used to join together words, phrases, or clauses. Conjunctive adverbs are specifically used to connect two independent clauses.
An independent clause (also called a main clause) contains a subject and a predicate, and it expresses a full thought. In other words, it can stand on its own and makes sense as a complete simple sentence. For example:
- “Jen hadn’t enjoyed the play. She didn’t recommend it to her friend.”
This example shows two independent clauses. The first contains the subject Jen and the predicate hadn’t enjoyed the play, while the second includes the subject she and the predicate didn’t recommend it to her friend. Each clause expresses a complete idea and makes sense on its own. However, they would sound more natural if they were connected. This is where conjunctive adverbs come in. For example:
- “Jen hadn’t enjoyed the play; therefore, she didn’t recommend it to her friend.”
The two independent clauses are now connected in a more natural way, using the conjunctive adverb therefore.
Punctuating the clauses
When we join two independent clauses with a conjunctive adverb, they are traditionally separated with a semicolon (as in our example above). It is also acceptable to use a period and keep them as two discrete sentences. Either way, the conjunctive adverb typically begins the second clause, followed by a comma. (We will examine alternative placement of the adverb later in this section.) However, we cannot separate the two clauses using a comma. For example:
- “Jen hadn’t enjoyed the play; therefore, she didn’t recommend it.” (correct)
- “Jen hadn’t enjoyed the play. Therefore, she didn’t recommend it.” (correct)
- “Jen hadn’t enjoyed the play, therefore, she didn’t recommend it.” (incorrect)
If we choose to separate the two clauses with a period, we must remember to capitalize the conjunctive adverb, since it is the first word in a new sentence.
For the sake of consistency, we will use semicolons in all of the examples below.
Choosing a conjunctive adverb
There are many conjunctive adverbs. To choose the right one, we must consider the relationship between the first and second clause. Let’s look at the example again:
- “Jen hadn’t enjoyed the play; therefore, she didn’t recommend it to her friend.”
The second clause is a result of the first clause. Jen hadn’t enjoyed the play, and that is the reason that she didn’t recommend it to her friend. So, when we connect the two clauses, we choose a conjunctive adverb (therefore) that makes this cause-and-effect relationship clear. Think about how the relationship between these two clauses is different from the previous example:
- “Jen hadn’t enjoyed the play. She recommended it to her friend.”
We still have two independent clauses, but now the relationship between them is different. Jen hadn’t enjoyed the play, but recommended it to her friend anyway. We can no longer use the conjunctive adverb therefore, because we are no longer dealing with cause and effect. Instead, we need to choose a conjunctive adverb like nevertheless, which is used to express unexpected results:
- “Jen hadn’t enjoyed the play; nevertheless, she recommended it to her friend.”
These are some the most common conjunctive adverbs and their functions:
Adding stronger info
as a result
on the other hand
When the second clause is a result of something that happened in the first clause, we have a few options. One is therefore, which we looked at already.
We can also use accordingly, as a result, consequently, hence, and thus interchangeably with therefore; the meaning of the sentence remains the same. For example:
- “Jen hadn’t enjoyed the play; hence, she didn’t recommend it.”
- “Jen hadn’t enjoyed the play; as a result, she didn’t recommend it.”
- “Jen hadn’t enjoyed the play; consequently, she didn’t recommend it.”
When we state that two things are alike, we can use the conjunctive adverbs comparatively and similarly. For example:
- “Jen grew up in New York City; similarly, her boyfriend grew up in inner-city Chicago.”
- “Sam always wanted to be a famous movie star; comparatively, his brother wanted to be a famous rock star.”
When we state that two things are not just similar, but equal, we can draw a comparison using conjunctive adverbs like equally and likewise.
- “Jen grew up in New York; likewise, her boyfriend was raised in the city.”
- “Sam always wanted to be a movie star; equally, his brother dreamed of starring in films.”
There are two types of contrast that we can illustrate using conjunctive adverbs. The first, known as complete contrast, is when the two opposing things are total opposites. For this type of contrast, we can use any of the contrasting conjunctive adverbs in the table. For example:
- “Tom has a black backpack; in contrast, his brother has a white one.”
- “I absolutely love singing; on the other hand, my sister hates it.”
- “Jen is terrible at math; however, her friend is amazing at it, so she helps her.”
The other type of contrast is weak contrast. This is when the two clauses are opposing but are not complete opposites. For this type of contrast, we are limited to using only the weaker of the contrasting conjunctive adverbs, and not the strong ones like on the other hand and in contrast. For example:
- “Jen is terrible at math; however, she still likes it.” (correct)
- “Jen is terrible at math; on the other hand, she still likes it.” (incorrect)
- “I would have liked to stay in bed all day; instead, I got up and went to the park.” (correct)
- “I would have liked to stay in bed all day; in contrast, I got up and went to the park.” (incorrect)
Sometimes we want to add information of equal value to the information in the first clause. In this case, we can use also or in addition. For example:
- “When you make the dinner, remember that he doesn’t like chicken; in addition, he can’t eat shellfish.”
- “Her favorite animals are dogs; also, she likes cats.”
When we want to add information that further explains something, we use besides. For example:
- “I heard this movie is terrible; besides, I hate horror films.”
- “Jen passed her test because she’s good at English; besides, she studies hard.”
Adding stronger information
When the information that we want to add has more value (is stronger) than the information in the first clause, we can use the conjunctive adverbs further, furthermore, or moreover. For example:
- “He was fired because he was often late; furthermore, the quality of his work was poor.”
- “Being a doctor is an exhausting job; moreover, you don’t earn good money until you’ve been practicing for many years.”
When the second clause is an unexpected result of the first clause, we can use the conjunctive adverbs nevertheless, nonetheless, surprisingly or still. For example:
- “I am terrible at math; nonetheless, I passed my exam!”
- “That car cost far too much money; nevertheless, Tom bought it.”
- “She has never been to France; surprisingly, she speaks French fluently.”
When we want to place special emphasis on the second clause, we can use the conjunctive adverbs indeed or in fact. For example:
- “I didn’t study as much as I should have; indeed, I hardly opened a book!”
- “He doesn’t like swimming very much; in fact, he hates all sports!”
The conjunctive adverb otherwise is used to place conditions on whether something will occur or not. It most closely means “if not.” For example:
- “You have to come with me; otherwise, I’m not going.”
- “Maybe she didn’t study very hard; otherwise, she would have passed the test.”
Where to use conjunctive adverbs
Conjunctive adverbs must appear in the second of the two clauses that are connected. For the sake of consistency, we have shown all of them at the beginning of the second clause in the examples, but they can actually be moved around within it.
Depending on where we place the conjunctive adverb in the sentence, there are certain rules regarding commas that we must be aware of.
At the beginning of the second clause
Conjunctive adverbs are often placed at the beginning of the second clause, which is how we have shown them in all of our examples up to now. Note that when they are placed in this position, they are usually followed by a comma. The comma is sometimes optional with the conjunctive adverb thus, but this is a stylistic preference. For example:
- “Jen hadn’t enjoyed the play; thus, she didn’t recommend it.”
- “Jen hadn’t enjoyed the play; thus she didn’t recommend it.”
In the middle of the second clause
We can also place the conjunctive adverb in the middle of the second clause. It should come after the subject or introductory phrase. When the introductory phrase is short (i.e., one to two syllables), it may not be necessary to place a comma after the conjunctive adverb. For example:
- “Jen hadn’t enjoyed the play; she therefore didn’t recommend it.”
If the introductory phrase is any longer, it is generally necessary to enclose the conjunctive adverb between two commas. For example:
- “Jen hadn’t enjoyed the play; she decided, therefore, not to recommend it.”
- “Jen hadn’t enjoyed the play; she did not, as a result, recommend it.”
At the end of the second clause
Finally, a conjunctive adverb can also appear at the end of the second clause. When placing the conjunctive adverb in this position, it is usually preceded by a comma; however, this depends on the flow of the sentence and it can be omitted if it seems unnatural. For example:
- “Jen hadn’t enjoyed the play; she did not recommend it, consequently.”
- “Tom had never been good at basketball; he had always loved it, nonetheless.”
- “I wanted to stay in bed; I went to the park instead.