How & When to Use However in a Sentence

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  • 0:03 A Multifaceted Word
  • 1:02 Starting a Sentence
  • 1:38 With a Semicolon
  • 2:53 Aside
  • 3:21 'In Whatever Manner'
  • 3:47 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: David Boyles

David has a Master's in English literature. He has taught college English for 5+ years.

The adverb however has several different useful purposes in a sentence, as it can join ideas together, to include an aside, or to mean 'in whatever manner'. But because it has so many uses, each requires specific punctuation to make sure your meaning is clear.

A Multifaceted Word

'However' is one of those words that many writers avoid because they aren't sure how to use it properly. This is a shame, though, because it is a very useful word that can do many different jobs in a sentence. However, using it does require the writer to pay close attention and use proper punctuation in order to not be ambiguous or confusing. So let's take a look at this word so you can put this multifaceted tool in your writing toolbox.

Let's start with its part of speech, or job in a sentence. 'However' is an adverb, which is a word that modifies a verb, adjective, or group of words. 'However' most often modifies a group of words to show a contrast with something that had been said before. It can also be used to mean 'in whatever manner'.

So how do you use it in each of these ways? Let's find out.

Starting a Sentence

Perhaps the most common use of 'however' is at the beginning of a sentence. It indicates that this sentence is going to say something contradictory to the previous sentence. When using 'however' at the beginning of a sentence, it is always followed by a comma (,):

  • I got to the airport two hours early. However, my flight was delayed.
  • Rebecca invited me to her party tonight. However, I already made other plans.
  • Jane asked for extra credit to raise her grade. However, Mr. Robinson refused.

I got to the airport two hours early. However, my flight was delayed.

With a Semicolon

In our examples above, 'however' is used to transition between two sentences, indicating a contrast or contradiction in the second sentence. These two sentences could also be joined together into what is known as a compound sentence, which is a sentence made of two independent clauses, or a part of a sentence that can stand on its own as a sentence.

To create a compound sentence, all you have to do is swap out the period at the end of the first sentence for a semicolon (;). 'However' stays where it was, including its comma:

  • I got to the airport two hours early; however, my flight was delayed.
  • Rebecca invited me to her party tonight; however, I already made other plans.
  • Jane asked for extra credit to raise her grade; however, Mr. Robinson refused.

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