However, …


I was always taught that the word however is either surrounded by commas, in a sentence like If you do this, however, you will get into trouble, or else it must be either the first or last word in the sentence, and whatever its position, it is an adverb. Now, even on government websites, it is used as a conjunction in the middle of a sentence, with a single comma (sometimes before it, sometimes after) which clearly (to my ears at least) does not fit the intonation. Here is an example from the Highways Agency:

Depending on the stage of works it may be necessary to maintain lane or road closures, however we will do everything possible to open lanes as soon as we can.

Obviously no one proof reads anything any more (re-write: … road closures. However, we will …)


  1. Totally agree; it’s one of my pet peeves. Strunk & White put it well: “Avoid starting a sentence with however when the meaning is ‘nevertheless.'”

    “Nevertheless” in M-W even brings up “however.” M-W also lists however as a conjunction, FYI.

  2. Couldn’t you also use a semicolon here? For example, “. . . road closures; however, we will do everything possible to open lanes as soon as we can.”

  3. Yes, Dave, a semi-colon would work just as well.

  4. I believe it should actually be re-written as (… road closures; however, we will …) and not (…road closures. However, we will …). In this context “however” is used as a conjunction connecting two statements where the second contrasts with the first. “…however, we will” is a clause and does not stand alone as a sentence.

  5. You Brits have been dropping the traditional punctuation marks with all possible speed, whereas we Yanks remain firmly in a commatose condition. When I looked through the Grauniad’s style guide, the lack of marks appalled me.

    However, the notion that however can’t or shouldn’t be clause-initial when used as a sentence adverb has no foundation in fact.

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