Grammar Time: Conjunctive Adverbs
January 4, 2018
For today’s Grammar Time, we’ll be going over how to properly punctuate conjunctive adverbs. But first, what is a conjunctive adverb?
Conjunctions, Adverbs, and Conjunctive Adverbs
How many of you have heard the song “Conjunction Junction”?
Well, the function of a conjunction is to connect phrases or clauses. This can be two independent clauses (two complete sentences, in which case there would be a comma before the conjunction) or an independent and dependent clause (a complete sentence and a fragment, in which case there wouldn’t be a comma before the subordinating conjunction).
Adverbs modify a part of speech, such as an adjective, verb, or even another adverb. However, adverbs don’t modify nouns.
Many adverbs end in “–ly” but this isn’t always the case, so you can’t use that as the only criteria when judging whether something is an adverb or not. If it’s modifying an adjective, verb, or adverb, it’s probably an adverb. If it’s modifying a noun, it’s not.
A conjunctive adverb functions to join two ideas, so it kind of combines conjunctions and adverbs. Conjunctive adverbs include words like however, accordingly, additionally, comparatively, conversely, furthermore, otherwise, and therefore.
Conjunctive adverbs usually show a specific sort of relationship between the two ideas, whether it’s a cause-and-effect relationship or to show a conflicting perspective. The use of conjunctive adverbs shows a strong relation between the sentences.
Punctuating Conjunctive Adverbs
Conjunctive adverbs are generally only used to join two independent clauses. It’s rare for someone to use a conjunctive adverb as a subordinating conjunction. There are some major differences between punctuating a conjunctive adverb and punctuating a normal conjunction though.
Specifically, while you use a comma before a conjunction when it’s joining two independent clauses, for a conjunctive adverb you need to use a semicolon (or–if the occasion calls for a harsher stop–a period). You must also set off the conjunctive adverb with a comma.
Normal Conjunction: “Master gave Dobby a sock, so Dobby is a free elf!”
Conjunctive Adverb: “Harry Potter spent the entire term making polyjuice potion instead of doing his schoolwork; therefore, he will likely fail his exams (unless Dumbledore cancels them . . . again).”
This isn’t the only way to use conjunctive adverbs, however. You can also use conjunctive adverbs as introductory or conclusionary phrases (phrases that start or end a sentence), as well as parenthetical phrases (explanatory phrases or words inserted into a passage). In these cases the conjunctive adverb can be set off with commas or dashes, although commas are a lot more common than dashes for this purpose.
Conjunctive Adverb as a Parenthetical: “The four founders got along for the most part. Salazar Slytherin, however, was a jerk face.”
Conjunctive Adverb as an Introductory Phrase: “‘Finally, Lord Voldemort will cease to be a memory,’ Tom cackled.”
Conjunctive Adverb as a Conclusionary Phrase: “Ron and Harry didn’t care much for Hermione at first. They would have died without her, however.”
So, those are the basics! Hopefully, this clears up what a conjunctive adverb is and how you should punctuate it.