Commas & semicolons with however (and other conjunctive adverbs)

When combining two sentences into one compound sentence, a comma and a coordinating conjunction (and, but, or, nor, for, so, yet) are used.

Example 1: The festival was to be held today, but it was canceled because of the rainy weather. (comma and coordinating conjunction)

Sometimes writers use words such as however, furthermore, and therefore (these are called conjunctive adverbs) in place of coordinating conjunctions to combine two sentences into one. This is where a punctuation problem often arises. The mistake writers make is to incorrectly place a comma in place of a semicolon before conjunctive adverbs, as illustrated in the sentence below:

Example 2: The festival was to be held today, however, it was canceled due to the rainy weather. (comma preceding the conjunctive adverb – INCORRECT. Note: The comma following the conjunctive adverb is perfectly correct and should be left as is.)

A semicolon, rather than a comma, should precede conjunctive adverbs when they link two complete sentences. Note the corrected form of Example 2 below:

Example 3: The festival was to be held today; however, it was canceled due to the rainy weather. (semicolon preceding the conjunctive adverb – CORRECT)

Don’t be misled–there ARE situations in which it is entirely correct to use a comma before a conjunctive adverb, as in the following sentence:

Example 4: The sporting events, however, continued despite the weather.

Note that in this sentence, in contrast to the sentence in Example 3, no semicolon is needed because it is not a compound sentence.

Posted in Punctuation.

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  1. it really helped thanks

  2. crystal says:

    i like this webpage its cool i need it cause sometimes my teacher asks me to get sentences using conjunctive adverbs and it pretty much works

  3. Marilys Jacqueline Escudero says:

    What about commas (punctuations) when it comes to quotations?

    • Marilys Jacqueline Escudero says:

      punctuation marks, rather than my plural version with an s. when is it appropriate to use a dash or semi-colon?

  4. Andrew D. says:

    I’d like to put in a good word for *periods* in place of commas and semicolons. The humble period is very often the best choice betweens sentences that can stand well on their own—as here, for example, before the however. It’s fine to take a breath. A semicolon, conjunction, or comma often reflects the writer’s reluctance to pause.

  5. Kate says:

    I’m pretty sure that putting commas either side of however is wrong (,however,). I know that EVERYBODY does it and I have seen it in national newspapers, but I was always taught at school and while studying English Lit at uni that it is not correct to do this. Am trying to find the rule that explains why not. Maybe I’m wrong but I don’t think so. Can anyone help?

  6. prince shaikh says:

    nice just want to learn ….

  7. Russell says:

    This is clear, concise and very helpful. Thank you!

  8. Josh says:

    Nice, but it should be ‘owing to’, not ‘due to’. ‘Due’ is an adjective in that context, so one can say, ‘The cancellation was due to rainy weather’ or ‘It was cancelled owing to rainy weather.’

    • Rachel V. says:

      Thank you for your comment, Josh. It’s very rare that I hear “owing to” used in the context you described. It certainly isn’t a phrase I use myself. Perhaps I should have written, “…it was canceled because of the rainy weather.”

  9. Don Ranly says:

    Nicely done. And absolutely correct.

  10. salmarty says:

    This is the best place to study English Grammar, thanks

  11. Lee says:

    I’ve never known when to use a comma in a correct way, but it appears to be very simple! thank you for your post.

  12. Nancy says:

    I’m lucky to have found this post!our company’s partners send different letters, and sometimes I have to write a reply. So this information will be very useful for me. Thanx!

  13. Justin says:

    Y’all need a favicon. Cool post.

  14. raivalk says:

    Thanks a lot. It really helped me!!!!!!

  15. Allen says:

    Ahh comma splices, they are the bane of my existence.

  16. Susan Musca says:

    Finally, an easy, precise explanation!

  17. Ink says:

    Please, send these information to me, I need all of these to teach my students. Thank you. It is very useful..