Conjunctive adverbs are a type of connecting words that are similar to words such as because or after. Both conjunctive adverbs and subordinating conjunctions show the relationship between ideas.
A conjunctive adverb, however, does not turn a sentence (independent clause) into a fragment (dependent clause). Also, a conjunctive adverb will help you change the rhythm of a sentence.
You must do your homework because you will get a bad grade if you don’t.
Here because is a connecting word. If you separate the sentences, you create a sentence fragment:
You must do your homework. Because you will get a bad grade if you don’t.
Use a conjunctive adverb to join the two independent clauses:
You must do your homework; otherwise, you will get a bad grade if you don’t.
You can divide that sentence into two without creating a fragment:
You must do your homework. Otherwise, you will get a bad grade if you don’t.
The Second Difference Between Conjunctive Adverbs and Subordinating Conjunctions
Conjunctive adverbs are extremely flexible. Look what happens to the rhythm and emphasis if you place the conjunctive adverb otherwise in different spots of the sentence.
You will, otherwise, get a bad grade.
You, otherwise, will get a bad grade.
You will get a bad grade otherwise.
Because of their flexibility, you can change the rhythm of a sentence or what you wish to emphasize. This is helpful because sometimes a writer wants to create a pause, but the “rule” about put a comma where you pause is not a rule at all. (Notice that if you use the conjunctive adverb as a connector, you have to use a semi-colon; otherwise, you usually put commas around it.)
The ability to move a conjunctive adverb in the sentence is also how you know you are using one. Take a look at the following sentence:
You will, because, get a bad grade sounded like a sentence never.
The only place in that sentence for because is at the beginning.
Let us know if you have other examples of conjunctive adverbs in action, or take the Grammar Nerd Quiz to see your Grammar Nerd score. Curious who makes the rules we have to follow? Then check out Who Makes Grammar Rules.