When the adverb “however” is used to introduce a contrary statement, does it have to be followed by a comma?

I know in such usage, "however" usually accompanies with a comma, but still I found an exception here:

The director said he was looking for girls six and up, because he didn’t think that someone younger would be able to act. However when he saw Wallis act, he knew he had found the perfect person to play Hushpuppy. He said she was “beyond anything we’d seen before.”

Is that an accidental error, or the use of "however" without a comma does exist in some nonstandard English?


In your example sentence, a comma is appropriate after the 'however', so the sentence contains an error. This is because "when he saw Willis act" is a complete phrase, which should be set off by commas. If you removed that phrase, the sentence would stand on its own:

However, he knew he had found the perfect person to play Hushpuppy.

But to answer your broader question, 'however' is generally followed by a comma in a sentence except in the situation Buster described above.


However is overwhelming followed by a comma regardless of the situation. However, when it precedes an adjective/adverb such as short, long, reluctantly, good, temporary, etc. it does not need a comma.

The truth is, you can usually find an instance that goes against the norm. But most people (supported by corpus data) would put a comma in that sentence you cited.

  • 1
    Thank you. Good explanation, but still, I should say however, preceding an adjective/adverb is a different usage from what my question is talking about... – dennylv Dec 9 '14 at 2:37

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