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Basically, what's the difference between this:

However, it didn't mean that I didn't have the potential to become a rock star.

and this?

It didn't mean, however, that I didn't have the potential to become a rock star.

Or does it mean exactly the same thing?

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    You can insert a however in a number of places without changing the meaning of the sentence. Let's not forget about the end: It didn't mean that I didn't have the potential to become a rock star, however. – J.R. Jan 18 '14 at 10:48
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    And as an additional point, the sentence is a little heavy-going on the reader, because of the double negative, indeed the same phrase,'I didn't', repeated. It reads more easily if you say 'It didn't mean, however, that there was no potential for me to become a rock star'. Or why not 'However, there was nonetheless still potential for me to become a rock star'? – WS2 Jan 18 '14 at 11:15
  • The meaning doesn't change, which leaves pragmatic reasons for a particular choice. As Bob says, the double negative is demanding; placing the however between them (your second variant) may help the reader slightly. Also, however has a pragmatic attention-focusing capability (not as big as WOW! of course), and putting it at the start of a sentence helps redirect the reader's train of thought. – Edwin Ashworth Jan 18 '14 at 11:22
  • @WS2, the double negative doesn’t really bother me here, although “that there was no potential for me …” is fine for me too. The triplet “however … nonetheless … still” in your second suggestion seems very cumbersome to me, though, and definitely inferior to the original. Getting rid of either ‘however’ or ‘nonetheless’ fixes it. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Jan 18 '14 at 14:47
  • @JanusBahsJacquet In that case, leave out the 'nonetheless' and keep it very simple. I'm starting a campaign for plain English, (CAMPE)to model the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA), hopefully with the same success. – WS2 Jan 18 '14 at 17:40
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The Ancient Romans knew about the power of word placement in sentences, and used it to great effect in their particular culture. In Latin, the relationship of words to each other did not depend on their position. To keep people guessing as they spoke, they often saved the most important word in the sentence - the verb - for last. The others they arranged however they liked to achieve the greatest effect.

We have lost most of that ability in English, and changing word order often means having to change the entire construction of the sentence. Your sentence has the same meaning wherever you place However. You, though, have a choice in a word you can place to your desired effect: what do you want to emphasize? "The king, they killed." has a heavy emphasis on king by disturbing the natural order of the sentence and putting king first.

If you want to emphasize something in the previous sentence, however at the beginning of the sentence does that: a sentence beginning with however will tend to draw attention to itself and its transitional function. (This is often where you will find the word. Examples will follow. Judge for yourself how placement changes emphasis.)

However, it didn't mean that I didn't have the potential to become a rock star.
(However, we haven't received your tax return.)

To suggest a contrast that is unexpected in light of the first part of your sentence, you can insert it in the middle, and it also emphasizes I:

It didn't mean that I, however, didn't have the potential to become a rock star.
(Why should we, however, have to plead ignorance...)

If you want to emphasize your potential, you can place it later:

It didn't mean that I didn't have the potential, however, to become a rock star.
(Targeting of German Chancellor Angela Merkel's phone, however, did not end until quite recently.)

As J.R. noted, you can also save it to end the sentence and emphasize rock star:

It didn't mean that I didn't have the potential to become a rock star, however.
(The term "net neutrality" didn't come into popular use until several years later, however.)

Or, in your second example, to emphasize the meaning:

It didn't mean, however, that I didn't have the potential to become a rock star.
(Another U.S. official says, however, that Obama was briefed and given detailed documents describing what's known as...)

Where you put it doesn't change the meaning. It just puts the emphasis on different aspects of your sentence.

Others have commented on the double negative, so I will not.

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    "It didn't mean that I didn't have potential, however , to become a rock star" is ambiguous and is just bad paraphrasing ."however it didn't mean that there was no potential in me to become a rock star" seems best. – Argot Jan 18 '14 at 12:14
  • It is not ambiguous to me, however, from my experience. :) It may well be ambiguous to you. We are different people. – anongoodnurse Jan 18 '14 at 12:50
  • Your digressions are awesome(Romans) – Argot Jan 18 '14 at 12:54
  • @Argot - hmm, I thought that was an introduction on word placement... not a digression... o_O but perhaps you are correct. :( – anongoodnurse Jan 18 '14 at 13:01
  • I love you. However, I must be off! (+1, especially for the Latin reference.) – bib Jan 18 '14 at 18:27

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