Linking adverbs

Ken Peng from Malaysia writes:

What are linking adverbs - please give me some examples - and are they also called conjunctive adverbs?

Xiao Ling from China writes:

I'm having difficulty distinguishing some linking devices like however, nevertheless, whereas, etc. Would you please explain to me how to use those terms correctly?

Roger Woodham replies:

Linking adverbs

Linking adverbs are adverbs that are used to link ideas or clauses in spoken discourse or written text. They could also be called conjunctive adverbs in so far as they perform the same sort of function as conjunctions.

We use a very wide variety of linking adverbs. Some are more commonly used in formal written English, whilst others are more characteristic of informal, spoken language. Here are some of the most common.


Yet / but still

Yet and but still are used to link contrasting ideas together. But still is very informal, yet is semi-formal. In the examples below, note how different meaning and usage is when they are employed as adverbs, adding information to the verb, and as linking adverbs, contrasting ideas:

  • Haven't you finished that work yet? Come on. Get a move on!

  • I have yet / still to see an English orchid as beautiful as those in the rain forests of Brazil.

  • I've cautioned him three times already for arriving late for work. But he still turned up ten minutes late again this morning.

  • He claims he is a vegetarian, (and) yet he eats everything my mother puts in front of him.

Note that yet as a linking adverb can only be placed in front position in the clause. Still can be placed before or immediately after the subject: but he still… / but still he….


As well / too

As well and too are linking adverbs, meaning also or in addition, which would be a more formal equivalent. Again, note the difference in meaning and usage when they are employed as adverbs modifying the adjective or adding information to the verb, and as linking adverbs, meaning in addition:

  • This T-shirt is too small for me. I need a larger size.

  • I certainly can't play the piano as well as she does. Katerina is good enough to be a concert pianist. I play quite well, but not as well.

  • My birthday's on the sixth of June. ~ That's funny. My birthday's on the sixth of June too / as well.

  • We're all going to Cornwall for our holidays this year. Oh, and Jeremy's coming as well / too.

Note that too and as well as linking adverbs are normally placed in end position in the clause, although in a more formal style too can be placed immediately after the subject:

  • You like Beethoven. I too am fond of Beethoven's music.

However / nevertheless

As linking adverbs, however and nevertheless are used to emphasize a contrast with what has been said or written before which may appear surprising to the listener or reader:

  • It is clear that prices have been rising steadily throughout this year. It is, however, unlikely that they will continue to rise as quickly next year.

  • I would be the first to admit that prices have risen sharply this year. Nevertheless, they are unlikely to rise as sharply next year.

  • The politician was confident of success. His advisers were not so certain, however.

  • He always remains cheerful. But his life has been beset by constant illness, nevertheless.

Note that however and nevertheless reflect more formal usage and that both can come in front, mid or end position in the clause.


Whereas / while

Whereas and while are both conjunctions which we use as linking devices to balance ideas or contrasting points in a more formal style of English. As conjunctions they can only come at front position in the clause

  • It rains quite a lot in England in the summer months whereas rain in Spain in the summer is a rare occurrence.

  • While I don't mind you having the occasional glass of wine, drinking too much is not in order.

  • A less formal equivalent which might be used in more informal contexts would be the connecting phrase: on the other hand.

  • Perhaps we should spend the whole week under canvas. On the other hand, it may rain a lot and then we could return home earlier.


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