however / nevertheless / moreover

Wutthichula Khunpatwattana from
Thailand writes:

I have a very simple question, but nobody has been able to make it clear to me. I know that the words however and nevertheless are slightly different in meaning and use. I would much appreciate it if you could make the differences clear to me.

Roger Woodham replies:

However and nevertheless: to express a contrast

We can use either of the adverbs however or nevertheless to indicate that the second point we wish to make contrasts with the first point. The difference is one of formality: nevertheless is bit more formal and emphatic than however. Consider the following:

  • I can understand everything you say about wanting to share a flat with Martha. However, I am totally against it.

  • Rufus had been living in the village of Edmonton for over a decade. Nevertheless, the villagers still considered him to be an outsider.

Note that however and nevertheless are normally placed in initial position in a sentence when contrasting two ideas. They can, however, also come in mid position or end position:

  • There will be no more pay increases this year. That is for sure. We have, however, agreed to carry out a full review of pay and conditions. We have agreed, nevertheless, to carry out a full review of pay and conditions.

  • He's still able to get around quite well.
    His whole life has been plagued by illness, however.
    His whole life has been plagued by illness, nevertheless
Less formal equivalents of however and nevertheless would be even so, in spite of this, yet or yet..still. These alternatives would be better suited to spoken English discourse:
  • She's really quite ill and has been for some time. Even so / In spite of this she remains in good spirits.

  • He has over a million pounds in his bank account. Yet he still gets up at six every morning to go to work.
      however and nevertheless: for counter-argument

If you need to write essays, it is also useful to use however, nevertheless, nonetheless or even so to introduce the final part of a three-part structure:

* in the first part you might outline an argument, introducing it perhaps with it is often said;

* in the second part you might indicate that there is supporting evidence using it is true or certainly to introduce these ideas;

* in the third part introduce the counter-argument with however or one of the other discourse markers listed above.

  • It is said that water pollution is one of the greatest evils in this country.

  • It is true that more and more factories are being built along this stretch of the river and that a certain amount of waste will inevitably be discharged into the river.

  • However, in all the discussions that I have had with these firms' representatives, I have not found one who does not have a responsible attitude to environmental protection.