Grammar However Comma: The Truth When It Comes to Punctuation |
The Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation

However Comma: The Truth When It Comes to Punctuation

Have you ever found yourself wondering whether you need a comma before or after the word however? If so, you aren’t alone. This is a minor point of grammar that is often questioned, debated, and searched. It can sometimes even be difficult to find a good answer online.

We are going to fix that in this post. Let’s get to the bottom of whether however and a comma go together always, never, or sometimes.

When to Use a Comma With However

The word however is a conjunction and a conjunctive adverb. This means that it signals a connection between two independent clauses in a sentence. It also can connect the ideas in two or more sentences or show relationships between ideas within a main clause. Similar examples would be the words consequently and furthermore.

We would not use however as a coordinating conjunction separating two independent clauses. For example, the following would be incorrect:

I generally dislike vegetables, however I sometimes eat carrots.

Compare that with this correct usage of a coordinating conjunction:

I generally dislike vegetables, but I sometimes eat carrots.

Because however is a conjunctive adverb, it can separate these same two independent clauses if it is preceded by a semicolon:

I generally dislike vegetables; however, I sometimes eat carrots.

We could also choose to separate the two independent clauses with a period. The word however and a comma would then begin the second independent clause:

I generally dislike vegetables. However, I sometimes eat carrots.

In each instance, you can see how the word however joins or bridges related thoughts or ideas.

When However Is Used to Insert a Break in Thought

Occasionally writers will use the word however not to bridge ideas but to interrupt their own thoughts.


I don’t think schools should encourage blind obedience to authority. My professor, however, feels strongly that I should arrive at his class on time every week.

In this application, however is still functioning as an adverb, but rather than join related thoughts or ideas, it acts as a parenthetical thought similar to on the other hand and nevertheless. In this case we would use a comma both before and after however. When however is used this way, you’ll note that it typically supports a thought or statement of contrast.

So How Should I Use Commas With However?

You can use a comma or commas with however when:

  • it bridges related thoughts separated by either a period or a semicolon.
  • you are inserting however in a parenthetical or contrasting context.

While these guidelines might not address every instance or occasion of however you encounter, they will certainly help you navigate common daily usage.

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