Comma Before or After However | Rules & Examples

The correct way to use commas with the conjunctive adverb ‘however’ depends on where it appears in the sentence. The table below shows the correct way to punctuate it in different positions.

Comma before or after however

Introducing a clause Introducing a sentence In the middle of a clause At the end of a clause
Note
Similar considerations apply when deciding whether to use a comma before ‘such as’, a comma before ‘as well as’, a comma before ‘too’, or a comma before ‘which’.

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However introducing a clause

People often make punctuation mistakes when using ‘however’ to connect two clauses in a sentence.

It’s incorrect to punctuate ‘however’ in the same way as ‘but’, just placing a comma before it and nothing after it. Doing so creates a comma splice. It’s still wrong if you add a comma after ‘however’ too.

The correct punctuation in this context is a semicolon before and a comma after.

  • I enjoy going to concerts, howeverI can rarely afford tickets.
  • I enjoy going to concerts, however, I can rarely afford tickets.
  • I enjoy going to concerts; however, I can rarely afford tickets.
Tip
A semicolon is used to connect two independent clauses clauses with their own separate subjects and verbs that could stand alone as sentences. When using a semicolon, you always have the option of replacing it with a period to create two separate sentences.

However introducing a sentence

When you use ‘however’ to introduce a new sentence, it still needs to be followed by a comma, just like any other introductory phrase. It’s incorrect to miss out the comma.

  • We do have some things in common. However we don’t get along well.
  • We do have some things in common. However, we don’t get along well.

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However in the middle of a clause

‘However’ sometimes appears in the middle of a clause instead. In this context, you need commas both before and after it. It’s wrong to omit either of these commas.

  • I think I’m quite organised. My partner however, disagrees.
  • I think I’m quite organised. My partner, however disagrees.
  • I think I’m quite organised. My partner however disagrees.
  • I think I’m quite organised. My partner, however, disagrees.
Tip
In this position, ‘however’ still creates a contrast with the preceding clause or sentence, but it interrupts the flow of the current clause, creating a more dramatic impact. This is good if you want to add emphasis, but don’t overdo it, or your text may read awkwardly.

However at the end of a clause

Less commonly, ‘however’ appears at the end of a clause or sentence. In this position, you need a comma before it.

  • The doorbell rang. There was nobody there however.
  • The doorbell rang. There was nobody there, however.
Tip
Leaving ‘however’ for last has the effect of making the contrast with the previous statement feel like an afterthought, and it can read unnaturally.

A different conjunctive adverb, ‘though’, is a more natural word choice in this position (punctuated in the same way: ‘There was nobody there, though’).

However vs but

People often punctuate ‘however’ incorrectly because they use it interchangeably with ‘but’ (or see it as a fancier version of ‘but’).

Although both are transition words used to create a contrast between different clauses or sentences, they’re punctuated differently. This is because they don’t play the same grammatical role in this context:

While coordinating conjunctions link clauses together directly and don’t have to be followed by a comma, conjunctive adverbs work differently; they need to be preceded by a period or semicolon and followed by a comma.

The same sentence (or series of sentences) can often be written with either ‘however’ or ‘but’. The important thing is to remember that the two words require different punctuation and that ‘but’ is also a perfectly valid choice.

  • I love to read fiction, however I don’t understand poetry.
  • I love to read fiction. However, I don’t understand poetry.
  • I love to read fiction, but I don’t understand poetry.
  • I love to read fiction. But I don’t understand poetry.
Note
You can also read more about the rules regarding commas before or after ‘but’.

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However meaning ‘no matter how’

When it’s not being used as a conjunctive adverb, ‘however’ can instead be used to mean ‘no matter how’, ‘in whatever way’, or ‘to whatever extent’. In this use, it’s not followed by a comma.

If the ‘however’ clause comes first, it’s separated from the following clause with a comma. If it comes at the end, you can use a comma before ‘however’, but only if the sentence up to that point would make sense on its own (i.e., the ‘however’ clause is nonrestrictive).

Examples: ‘However’ meaning ‘no matter how’
However hard she tried, she couldn’t wrap her head around quadratic equations.

Feel free to proceed however you see fit.

There was no convincing him, however long they argued for.

However in questions

A less common use of ‘however’ is as an interrogative adverb, similar to ‘how’. Just like ‘how’, ‘however’ is not followed by a comma in this context.

In this context, ‘however’ functions like other emphatic interrogative words (e.g., ‘whoever’, ‘whyever’), placing additional emphasis on the question being asked to suggest that you really can’t imagine what the answer might be.

This usage is quite dramatic and not appropriate for academic writing.

Examples: ‘However’ as an interrogative adverb
However did you come to that conclusion?

I wish you could stay longer! However will we manage without you?

Worksheet: Comma before or after however

If you want to test your knowledge of how to punctuate ‘however’ correctly, try completing the worksheet below. Add semicolons and commas wherever you think they are necessary (periods have already been added), and then check the answers provided.

  1. The results have come in however they’re not what we expected.
  2. The consensus is that the plan is a good one. I however am skeptical.
  3. Some have cited anecdotal evidence to suggest a connection. There is no clear trend however.
  4. However hard Sarah tried she couldn’t get the car to start.
  5. Tristan was planning to attend a concert. However it was canceled at the last minute.
  6. However did she get that idea?
  1. The results have come in; however, they’re not what we expected.
    • Here, ‘however’ is used as a conjunctive adverb to connect two independent clauses in a single sentence. Therefore, it’s preceded by a semicolon and followed by a comma.
  1. The consensus is that the plan is a good one. I, however, am skeptical.
    • Because ‘however’ interrupts in the middle of the clause ‘I am skeptical’, it’s surrounded by commas.
  1. Some have cited anecdotal evidence to suggest a connection. There is no clear trend, however.
    • Here, ‘however’ is added at the end of a sentence, so it’s preceded by a comma.
  1. However hard Sarah tried, she couldn’t get the car to start.
    • Here, ‘however’ is used to mean ‘no matter how’ or ‘regardless of how’. Because of this, a comma is needed at the end of the ‘however’ clause, but not directly after ‘however’.
  1. Tristan was planning to attend a concert. However, it was canceled at the last minute.
    • In this case, ‘however’ introduces a new sentence. Like other introductory words and phrases (e.g., ‘moreover’, ‘at the time’), it’s followed by a comma.
  1. However did she get that idea?
    • In this sentence, ‘however’ is used as an interrogative adverb equivalent to ‘how’, so no comma is needed.

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If you want to know more about commonly confused words, definitions, common mistakes, and differences between US and UK spellings, make sure to check out some of our other language articles with explanations, examples, and quizzes.

Sources for this article

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This Scribbr article

Caulfield, J. (2023, May 11). Comma Before or After However | Rules & Examples. Scribbr. Retrieved 22 February 2024, from https://www.scribbr.co.uk/comma/however-comma-before-or-after/

Sources

Butterfield, J. (Ed.). (2015). Fowler’s dictionary of modern English usage (4th ed.). Oxford University Press.

Garner, B. A. (2016). Garner’s modern English usage (4th ed.). Oxford University Press.

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Jack Caulfield

Jack is a Brit based in Amsterdam, with an MA in comparative literature. He writes for Scribbr about his specialist topics: grammar, linguistics, citations, and plagiarism. In his spare time, he reads a lot of books.