What Is a Conjunctive Adverb?

Glossary of Grammatical and Rhetorical Terms

conjunctive adverb
"On the other hand," says comedian Steven Wright, "you have different fingers." In this joke, Wright treats the conjunctive adverb on the other hand as a literal expression. (Don Bayley/Getty Images)

In English grammar, a conjunctive adverb is an adverb or adverbial phrase that indicates the relation in meaning between two sequential independent clauses (or main clauses). Also called a conjunct, a transitional conjunction, or a cohesive conjunction.

A conjunctive adverb is commonly placed at the beginning of the main clause (where it's usually followed by a comma); accordingly, it may follow a semicolon, but only when both clauses (the one before and the one after the conjunctive adverb) are independent and can stand alone.

A conjunctive adverb may appear, on the other hand, almost anywhere in the clause. When used as an interrupting word or phrase, the conjunctive adverb is usually set off by commas on either side.

Unlike a conventional adverb, which typically affects the meaning of only a single word or phrase, the meaning of a conjunctive adverb affects the entire clause of which it is a part. As shown in the list below, a conjunctive adverb may consist of more than one word.

Common Conjunctive Adverbs in English

accordingly

afterward

also

anyhow

anyway

as a result

at last

at the same time

besides

certainly

consequently

conversely

earlier

eventually

finally

for example

for instance

further

furthermore

hence

however

in addition

in any case

incidentally

indeed

in fact

in short

instead

in the meantime

later

likewise

meanwhile

moreover

namely

nevertheless

next

now

on the contrary

on the other hand

otherwise

perhaps

similarly

so

still

subsequently

that is

then

therefore

thus

Examples and Observations

Etymology

From the Latin, "join together"

Examples and Observations

  • "Always go to other people's funerals; otherwise, they won't go to yours."
  • "They were not sleeping on board the brig. On the contrary, they were talking, singing, laughing."
  • "'Furthermore' . . . implies that there's so much more to say about your contention that you can't help but add one more dramatic point. Furthermore, the word 'furthermore' cues the listener to pay attention, because the more supporting evidence is forthcoming."
  • "It is almost universally felt that when we call a country 'democratic' we are praising it; consequently, the defenders of every kind of regime claim that it is a democracy, and fear that they might have to stop using the word if it were tied down to any one meaning."
  • How to Identify Conjunctive Adverbs
    "If you are uncertain whether a connecting word is a conjunctive adverb, test by moving the connecting word to another place in the clause. Conjunctive adverbs can be moved; subordinating conjunctions (such as if and because) and coordinating conjunctions (but, or, yet, for, and, nor, so) cannot."
    (Stephen Reid, The Prentice Hall Guide for College Writers, 2003)

Pronunciation

kun-JUNGK-tiv ad-verb

Sources

Yogi Berra

Jules Verne, The Mysterious Island, 1874

Scott Snair, The Complete Idiot's Guide to Power Words. Penguin, 2009

George Orwell, "Politics and the English Language." Horizon, April 1946