Skip to Content

Comma before or after “however”: The Definitive Guide

Comma before or after “however”: The Definitive Guide

Symbols as unthreatening and innocent-looking as commas do have the ability to make any person flinch at least an inch when writing.

To add insult to the broken leg, we may also get anxious with the confusing nature of adverbs masquerading as conjunctions.

As cringy (or cringey) as these topics may be, we cannot run away from the fact that these lexical units are but important in writing.

The following sections aim to diminish some of the confusion brought by commas and however.

 

 

Comma Before or After However
 

Do we need a comma before or after “however”?

A quick answer to the question above is…it depends.

A comma most likely appears after however rather than before it.

But, when this conjunctive adverb is used as an interrupter in a sentence, called a parenthetical expression, a comma must always come before it.

More prevalent than the above scenario, a comma should be put after however when it functions either as an introductory clause connector or as the last word in a parenthetical.

Meanwhile, no commas are required when it is used as an adverb of manner that means “in whichever way”.

 

Comma before “however”

Interruptions that are inserted in sentences to evoke persuasion or information clarification are known as parentheses.

Parenthetical statements are peripheral speech devices that do not necessarily affect the immediate meaning of the whole sentence.

On that note, we can directly assume that these expressions will not hurt grammaticality lest they are taken away.

Commas, brackets, or dashes may be used to separate these intentional or accidental thoughts from the rest of the sentence.

Therefore, a comma is mandatory before however every time it is used to introduce parentheticals.

 

Using however as a parenthetical element

The interruptive use of however expresses contrast to another statement or other implicit features.

Moreover, the lexical meaning of this adverbial connector is relatively similar to saying “in spite of what was said” or “despite being”.

Layla, however aggravated by the offensive suggestion, remained calm and professional.

Notice the absolute grammaticality even after removing the parenthetical expression.

Layla remained calm and professional.

However, the rhetoric effect was also omitted after its removal.

Thus, depending on the intent of the message, discretion is advised.

 

Comma after “however”

The comma after however is fairly easy to use compared to the former case.

This typically occurs when it functions as a conjunctive adverb that introduces a sentence, or when it connects a secondary independent clause.

A comma is always necessary after however in these two sentence structures.

 

However as a conjunctive adverb

However is a type of adverb that has a conjunctive function, and thus, it is called a conjunctive adverb for this reason. 

Conjunctive adverbs are cohesive devices that aid in the logical flow of ideas in sentences.

They may also be sometimes called adverbial connectors.

Although adverbial connectors and conjunctions both have the ability to connect ideas, conjunctions are only limited to their “connecting” function.

Adverbial connectors or conjunctive adverbs, on the other hand, are more flexible tools because they, too, have the capability to modify other sentence parts.

Whenever however is used as a conjunctive adverb in introducing clauses, a comma is always necessary after it.

However, it is unnecessary for the employees to finish the medical examination within the current month.

The sentence may also be reconstructed to shift the emphatic focus.

Note that a semicolon before however is often used instead of a comma to clearly separate the segregation of lengthy ideas as with the one below.

All employees are advised to have a medical examination as soon as possible; however, it is not necessary to finish it within the current month.

 

Comma before and after however

As explained several sentences ago, parenthetical expressions are interruptive words, phrases, or clauses that are grammatically dispensable.

However may also be used singlehandedly as a parenthetical interrupter.

When this happens, adjacent commas before and after however must be employed to signal its parenthetical function.

Commas, however, decrease the chances of message misinterpretation.
In the earthquake-prone areas, however, the inhabitants have remained disaster-resilient.

Furthermore, this specific type of parenthetical is stylistically known as an aside.

Asides are generally inserted to convey either a sycophantic or regretful emotion for coaxing reasons.

And, to note one last time, this type of word insertion is done for emphasis rather than a grammatical yardstick.

 

When are commas not necessary with however?

Conjunctive adverbs do have the ability to modify other sentence parts aside from their connecting function.

Another possible way to use however is to imply the meaning of “despite how something was done” or “in whichever way”.

The use of however in this manner omits the necessity of comma usage around it.

 

However as an adverb of manner

In explaining how something is done, we do have to take note of the explicit difference of however’s lexical denotation.

This would now mean “in all or whatever ways possible”, and no commas should be used to separate it from the other sentence units.

My brother keeps forgetting to turn the TV off before sleeping however we always remind him.
However we always remind my brother to turn the TV off before sleeping, he just keeps forgetting it.

Both sentences above imply the same message that although we have done our best to always remind my brother to be more responsible, he just doesn’t seem to care at all.

The use of however in the sentence above may be less common than using it as a conjunctive adverb.

Therefore, a reader may have the tendency to misinterpret (especially the first example) the message or at least prompt the need to re-read the sentence.

So, paraphrasing would even be a better option instead of its rather ambiguous usage.

No matter how much we try to convince my brother to grow up already, he is just an utterly hopeless case.

That was probably more blunt than the previous samples.

Whichever you may choose to use, the intent and the audience should always be considered.

 

Conclusion

Both grammatical and stylistic speech devices are essential in any written language.

In the absence of oral speech, written symbols guide the communication between and among individuals.

Hence, their appropriate application is thereby substantial in assisting language preservation.