What Is a Conjunctive Adverb?

Debra Barnhart

A conjunctive adverb is a transitional word used to join two independent clauses. There are many conjunctive adverbs, and the meaning of the two independent clauses and their relationship to one another helps to determine which conjunctive adverb might be used. A conjunctive adverb, like most adverbs, can appear in different parts of the sentence, but the punctuation for joining two independent clauses remains the same.

Woman standing behind a stack of books
Woman standing behind a stack of books

Independent clauses can often function as sentences, because they have a subject and a verb and express a complete idea. Examples of conjunctive adverbs include the words "therefore," "consequently," "however," "nevertheless" and "moreover." These words enable the writer or speaker to transition from one idea to another while establishing a relationship between the two ideas.

The use of the correct conjunctive adverb depends on the relationship of the two clauses or ideas that are being expressed. "Therefore" and "consequently" usually mean something like “as a result of the preceding.” For example, “Maryann has an intense fear of blue dinner plates; therefore, she refuses to dine out without first having her friends scope out the color of a restaurant’s dinnerware.” The word "consequently" could be substituted for the word "therefore" in this sentence.

When used as conjunctive adverbs, "however" and "nevertheless" usually express a contrast in ideas. For example, “Maryann’s phobias often try her friends’ patience; however, she is lucky to have loyal friends who do not mind her eccentricities.” Both "however" and "nevertheless" could be used in this sentence, although the connotation or the emotional associations of each word differ slightly. The word "however" sounds more innocuous and middle-of-the-road, while "nevertheless" expresses a hint of exasperation.

The word "moreover" is used to provide additional information. “Maryann’s fear of blue dinner plates is not a very big issue in her daily life; moreover, her aversion to beige coffee mugs is really problematic, especially since she works at the local diner.” In this sentence the word "moreover" can be replaced with "anyway" or "anyhow."

Rules of grammar dictate that a semicolon should always be used to connect two independent clauses, and a comma will not suffice. The following sentence is punctuated incorrectly: “Maryanne chose to work at the diner in order to face her phobia head-on, nevertheless, she still trembles when she pours a cup of coffee for a customer.” A semicolon, not a comma, should be placed after the word “head-on.” This is true even when the conjunctive adverb appears in another part of the sentence: “Maryanne chose to work at the diner in order to face her phobia head-on; she still trembles, nevertheless, when she pours a cup of coffee for a customer.”

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