Conjunctive Adverbs - An Explainer

(Originally Published Feb 17, 2016)

You may, at some point (maybe soon), be asked by a teacher (possibly an English teacher) that you use conjunctive adverbs, a term you've likely never encountered. Don't panic. There are always going to be terms that you don't know and years from now, when you are writing your memoirs in a cozy cottage at the fringes of an ocean's lapping waves, you probably won't think to yourself, "This is a great opportunity for one of those conjunctive adverbs." With any luck, you'll use them properly without thinking twice, and that will be enough.

So let's talk about them.

You probably recognize the parts of the word. An adverb you hopefully know as the part of speech that modifies a verb (and also adjectives); this means it gives additional information about the action being performed or the description being used. When you walk quickly or live nearby or buy the slightly blue car, you are adverbing like a pro. The first part should also be familiar; you use coordinating conjunctions (FANBOYS) and subordinating conjunctions (because, although, whenever etc.) regularly. These words are used to create a connection between two clauses. The word conjunction actually means to join (junct) with (con).

Taken together, a conjunctive adverb is a word that creates a connection between two clauses while also modifying a verb. A list of them is below.

  • finally

  • further

  • furthermore

  • hence

  • henceforth

  • however

  • incidentally

  • indeed

  • instead

  • certainly

  • comparatively

  • consequently

  • contrarily

  • conversely

  • currently

  • elsewhere

  • equally

  • eventually

  • otherwise

  • rather

  • similarly

  • still

  • subsequently

  • then

  • thereafter

  • therefore

  • thus

  • undoubtedly

  • unique

  • likewise

  • meanwhile

  • moreover

  • namely

  • nevertheless

  • next

  • nonetheless

  • notably

  • now

Look at how a few examples are used:

Here, "consequently" modifies the action of the secondary clause - acted - to show that it was the result of the information in the first clause - that he was in love.

I felt like I was in love with Jennifer; consequently, I acted like an idiot around her. 


In this sentence, "nevertheless" modifies the action of the secondary clause - tried - to show that it was done despite the action seeming to conflict with the information in the first clause - that's some gross mustard on a gross sandwich.

The stink of stale mustard was terrible. I tried, nevertheless, to eat the sandwich.


This sentence uses "however" to modify the action of the secondary clause - doesn't seem to get the hint - to show that the action is being taken without regard to the information in the first clause - that she regularly tells her dad not to wear her heels.

A thousand times I've told my dad not to wear my high heels to costume parties; he doesn't seem to get the hint that pink is not his color, however.

After looking carefully at these three examples, I would encourage you to note the positioning of the conjunctive adverbs. Notice also the punctuation used. With all of the above in mind, we can come up with the following rules regarding conjunctive adverbs:

  1. Conjunctive adverbs connect two independent clauses.

  2. Conjunctive adverbs modify the action (verb) of a secondary clause by connecting it to the information in the first clause.

  3. Conjunctive adverbs are always found in the secondary clause.

  4. Conjunctive adverbs can be moved to a variety of locations within the secondary clause.

  5. Conjunctive adverbs are generally used with a semicolon and at least one comma.

It is important to remember that conjunctive adverbs can serve a variety of purposes. They show cause and effect, sequential order, contrast, comparison, and more. For further reading, I might suggest Wikipedia or Grammar Bytes, from which I take the following examples.

  • He can leap tall buildings in a single bound; furthermore, he is immune to most weapons.

  • Bret enjoys video games; therefore, he sometimes is late to appointments.

  • He went to the store; he did not, however, buy anything.

  • Stephanie sent me four valentines; consequently, she is my girlfriend.

  • I sat down alongside Adam; he thought I was his best friend thereafter.

  • Elaine wanted to high-five the friendly giant; consequently, she had to jump to reach him.

  • Jade was talking in class; therefore, she got in trouble.

  • The dark skies and distant thunder dissuaded Clarice from her afternoon run; moreover, she had thirty calculus problems to solve for her morning class.

  • Leon's apartment complex does not allow dogs over thirty pounds; otherwise, he would have bought the gangly Great Dane puppy playing in the store window.

  • Maria declined Jeff's third invitation to go out. This young man is determined, nevertheless, to take her to dinner one night soon.

  • The long noodles splashed tomato sauce all over the front of Brenda's shirt. Ordering fettuccine was a mistake indeed.