The Conjunctive Adverb

Posted by Greg MacDonald on

Compound sentences can be formed by combining simple sentences using coordinating Conjunctions (FANBOYSFor, And, Nor, But, Or, Yet, So), by Correlative Conjunctions (either ... or, neither ... nor, etc.), or by semi-colons.

Independent clauses may also be joined by Conjunctive Adverbs to form a Compound Sentence.  A conjunctive adverb may be identified by the punctuation accompanying it.  A semi-colon is placed before the conjunctive adverb in a sentence, and a comma is place after the conjunctive adverb:

The taxi was late; therefore, we caught a train.

Compound sentences containing a conjunctive adverb are analyzed in the same way as compound sentences containing Coordinating Conjunctions – The conjunctive adverb is placed between the independent clauses that it is joining.

Frequently used conjunctive adverbs include: on the other hand, consequently, furthermore, next, in other words, otherwise, meanwhile, therefore, however, nevertheless, in fact, instead, thus, on the contrary.

It is important to study the usage of these adverbs in the sentence, before concluding that they are functioning as conjunctions.  The adverb otherwise may, for example, be used adverbially, or as a conjunctive adverb:

The medicine must be taken as directed.  Used otherwise, it may cause allergic reactions.         (Adverb)

They must be in trouble; otherwise, someone would have called us.

(Conjunctive Adverb)

Initial presentations of compound sentence analysis should utilize a coordinating conjunction.  At a later time, introduce compound sentences that utilize correlative conjunctions:

Either the children will come inside immediately, or they will miss supper tonight.

Then introduce semi-colons:

The sun slowly set behind the mountains; it was a breathtaking sight.

... And finally, the conjunctive adverb:

I like pizza; in fact, it is my favorite food.

This order, of course, can be varied according to the sentences that the children decide to analyze.  If early in their work they are puzzled by a sentence they've found, and it contains a conjunctive adverb, that's the ideal time to introduce the concept!  There is "adult logic" (the preferred order of a presentation sequence), and there is the "child's logic" (which does not always precisely follow our adult, logical order).  Strike while the iron is hot if the children's logic takes over!  

When analyzing sentences that contain conjunctive adverbs, ensure that the semi-colon and the comma are included on the slip that contains the conjunctive adverb, emphasizing how one identifies a conjunctive adverb :

A final note on dividing up the original sentence when engaged in Sentence Analysis.  Kay Baker recommended that in the elementary, we tear the pieces apart.  This allows the children to reconstitute the sentence (like a jig-saw puzzle) when they need to do so to re-examine what they’ve done.  (I wish I’d known this when I was in the classroom.  It’s a WONDERFUL and practical innovation, and I’d also have been able to tell the children that “Today we’re going to do some tear-able work”!)

My favorite use of a conjunctive adverb?

Always go to other people’s funerals; otherwise, they won’t go to yours.

                                                                                               (Yogi Berra)

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  • Thanks, Greg! Another layer added to my language lessons! By the way, having been trained in this by Kay, I always tore my paper sentences. I assumed that she had just forgotten scissors or felt they were unnecessary and so I found I was always forgetting them, too; now I see the intention!

    Rachel Day on

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