Understanding Conjunctive Adverbs

Most of the time, adverbs are words that we use to modify verbs, adjectives, or other adverbs. However, some adverbs—such as the adverb however—can also be used like conjunctions. We call these adverbs conjunctive adverbs. A conjunctive adverb acts differently than other adverbs by connecting independent clauses that can stand alone as sentences. In this way it is still acting as a modifier by using one clause to modify another. Conjunctive adverbs can get pretty tricky, and they also happen to be good friends with arguably the most difficult punctuation mark to use. Because they can be tough to use correctly, let’s learn a little bit more about conjunctive adverbs.

What is a conjunctive adverb?

A conjunctive adverb is a special type of adverb that is used to link independent clauses (sentences) together. While most adverbs are used to modify verbs, adjectives, or other adverbs, conjunctive adverbs are used as conjunctions to link one sentence to another.

Take a look at the following sentences:

  • We can’t bake the cake because we ran out of milk. Also, we don’t have any eggs left.

The second sentence begins with the conjunctive adverb also that indicates this sentence is related to the previous sentence. These two sentences are focused around the same topic, and the second sentence provides more information about and builds off of the first sentence.

Conjunctive adverbs list

There are numerous words that can be used as conjunctive adverbs. Some common conjunctive adverbs include:

Conjunctive adverbs uses and examples

Although all conjunctive adverbs are used to link sentences, different conjunctive adverbs can be used when you want to express a specific idea.

To indicate connection and link ideas

Some conjunctive adverbs can be used to show that similar ideas are connected to each other.

  • Pierre loves France for its history and culture; also, he is fluent in French and enjoys talking to the locals.
  • The movie was the perfect fit for the director who loved action and explosions. Moreover, she had worked with the lead actor in many other films.

Another type of word that works to draw things together is the linking verb. Learn more about it.

To show cause and effect

Conjunctive adverbs can be used to link cause and effect. When we do this, we usually introduce the cause first and then transition to the effects.

  • The weather forecast said a tornado was likely; hence, the picnic was canceled.
  • The team’s owner was willing to pay any price for the best players; thus, the team was able to win multiple championships.
  • I forgot to put on sunscreen. Consequently, I have a sunburn today.

To provide evidence to an argument or prove a point

Conjunctive adverbs can be used to link evidence to an argument. Usually, we introduce our argument first and then follow it with evidence that supports it.

  • Gorillas have proven to be very intelligent. For example, Koko the Gorilla was able to learn sign language.
  • Washington, DC, has several examples of neoclassical architecture. For instance, the Supreme Court building resembles a Greek or Roman temple.

To compare or demonstrate opposing ideas

Conjunctive adverbs can also be used to connect two sentences by stating that they oppose each other.

  • The acrobats and clowns are late; regardless, the show will still go on as planned.
  • Ava wanted to ride the roller coasters. However, her little sister was too scared to go on them, so they decided to ride the gentler rides together.

To clarify sequencing events and show time

Conjunctive adverbs can be used to express chronological order or to explain when two events occurred in time in relation to each other.

  • Bruce raked all of the leaves into a big pile. Then, he jumped into the pile.
  • Alex was doing her homework in her room. Meanwhile, her brother Carter was playing video games in the living room.

To summarize a point

A conjunctive adverb can be used to summarize a topic and bring things to a conclusion. In this case, the conjunctive adverb connects the final sentence to everything said before it.

  • We got to go everywhere we wanted, and everyone had fun. All in all, it was a great trip.
  • Cheese, sauce, and crust combine to create a trifecta of deliciousness. In conclusion, pizza is the greatest food ever invented.

Conjunctive adverbs punctuation rules

In general, there are two different ways we can use punctuation with conjunctive adverbs. Regardless of which of these two methods you choose, we typically begin the second clause with the conjunctive adverb followed by a comma.

The first way is to simply separate our two independent clauses into two separate sentences. If we do this, the usual rules of punctuation apply. Namely, the first sentence will end in a period and the second sentence will be capitalized.

  • Cats are agile hunters that can catch birds. Additionally, they have fantastic night vision that allows them to see rodents in the dark.

The second way we use punctuation with conjunctive adverbs is a bit fancier. As an added bonus, it is one of those special moments when it is grammatically correct to use one of the most confusing punctuation marks we have: the semicolon. The semicolon is used to indicate that clauses are closely related to each other, which is the same reason that we use conjunctive adverbs. Because of this, it is grammatically correct to use a semicolon with conjunctive adverbs.

Review the most common punctuation marks and how to use them.

When using a conjunctive adverb, we can end the first independent clause with a semicolon and follow it with the second independent clause. When using a semicolon, the second independent clause is NOT capitalized.

  • I am terrified of snakes; nevertheless, I took my daughter to the snake exhibit because she really wanted to see it.

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Do you confuse your adverbs for adjectives? Reacquaint yourself with the ins and outs of adjectives.

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