The Strangeness of Conjunctive Adverbs

While reading about something called the conjunctive adverb, I realized I have for years misidentified this element of grammar.

The nature of conjunctive adverbs is complex and unusual; certainly, their dual, simultaneous job as modifier of their entire clause and coordinator of independent clauses is unique; moreover, their punctuation with a semicolon preceding and comma following is strange. In the sentence above, certainly and moreover are conjunctive adverbs.

Previously, I had thought the writer using these was connecting two independent clauses with semicolons while introducing the second clause with an adverb.

Conjunctive adverbs illustrate a fascinating element of English: words that simultaneously serve multiple functions in a single sentence. Other examples of words that do this are verbals, which function as incomplete combinations of verbs and nouns, adjectives or adverbs; and relative pronouns, which can function simultaneously as pronouns and prepositions.

Knowing now what these are, I expect conjunctive adverbs will jump off the page at me as I read. The harder task will be to construct sentences with conjunctive adverbs that don’t awkwardly jump off the page as I write.