I understand independent clauses, and how there are certain markers such as however, therefore, consequently which can denote an independent clause. The common example of use is when one of them follows a semi-colon and is follwed by a comma, followed in turn by an independent clause. That is all good. My question is are they only 'markers' when in the initial position, or are they still such when used elsewhere in a sentence? For example:

a) The bus was late; consequently, many people missed their appointments.

b) The bus was late. Many people, consequently, missed their appointments.

Is the consequently in the second example able to be viewed as an independent marker? This is possibly not a great example but hopefully will give you the idea behind my question.

  • 1
    You've still got two clauses and a conjunction which you can move around (effectively, for stylistic reasons). If you want to call the conjunction a "marker", I don't see why moving it should force a change in your terminology. Nov 24, 2011 at 4:56
  • @FumbleFingers Technically, however et al. aren't conjunctions; they're adverbs. (Otherwise a comma would suffice to separate the clauses.)
    – user13141
    Nov 24, 2011 at 8:38
  • @onomatomaniak: The word however can function as an adverb or as a conjunction, consequently I'm happy to say the same of various other adverbs in appropriate contexts. Nov 24, 2011 at 14:21

4 Answers 4


Here's a short list (as you can see, a complete list would be impossible) of these adverbs, or conjunctions, or <insert POS here>s. It isn't really important how they're named; nomenclature varies from person to person like handwriting or vowel length. And there is no definitive list of Parts of Speech, anyway. What's important is how these thingies work.

also, anyway, as we were saying, consequently, finally, first, fortunately, furthermore, hence, hopefully, however, ideally, in spite of this, incidentally, indeed, instead, likewise, meanwhile, moreover, nevertheless, nonetheless, next, now, on the other hand, otherwise, regrettably, second, similarly, so, still, surprisingly, thankfully, then, therefore, third, thus, unfortunately, well, wherever we go,

Essentially, these are formulaic linking phrases (or clauses, or clauses reduced to phrases), which indicate how two clauses fit together in a context. Mostly those are, as you point out, independent clauses. However, independent clauses normally aren't marked especially. Ordinary sentences, for instance, are all independent clauses, but they have no "independent marker"; it's taken for granted, or -- as linguists call it -- unmarked in the syntax.

Normally it's the dependent clauses that need to be marked, lest they be confused with the unmarked independent ones. And also so that one has at least a prayer of discerning in which of the myriad possible ways the dependent clause "depends on" some other clause. There are a lot of kinds of dependent clauses, like complements and relative clauses, which have quite a lot of marking; and adverbial clauses, which normally use these thingies, too, though with somewhat different syntax.

Some examples of thingies that mark a clause as dependent, and also indicate the manner of its dependency, include:

after although how if once since lest because before than though till unless until when whenever where wherever whether while why

Notice no commas between. Generally, these are integrated into the clause syntax, rather than sitting out if front with a comma parenthesis like one finds with the linkers above. I've put all the single words in the list just above. There are a lot more thingies, but they're phrases. Some examples (separated by | because they usually don't use commas) include:

as if | as though | as long as | as much as | as soon as | as far as | inasmuch as | insofar as | even if | even though | no matter how | in that | in case | in order [that] | now that | so [that] | provided [that] | supposing [that] | given [that]

Notice how many as's and that's there are, and how many wh-words and prepositions are involved. These are idioms composed of spare parts and they're inserted whenever one needs a patch of a certain kind of meaning.

This doesn't really explain much about the various ways these thingies work, but at least there's a list or three of them. That's always a good start.

  • Thanks John. I was experiencing confusion over the independent clause markers part of the issue, and feel that you've confirmed where my initial unease with it was- as you pointed out, most independent clauses don't use or need them. Resources from university writing sites I visited (eg OWL@Purdue) use this independent marker terminology, which was new to me, presumably to create contrast with the dependent markers. In the form Rant mentions below, conjunctions such as 'however' are fundamental devices for academic writing but students do confuse them with the dependent look-alikes
    – Jim
    Nov 27, 2011 at 19:31

The word consequently is an example of what the Chicago Manual of Style terms a final conjunction:

Final or illative coordinating conjunctions denote inferences or consequences. The second element gives a reason for the first element’s statement, or it shows what has been or ought to be done in view of the first element’s content. The conjunctions include consequently, for, hence, so, thus, therefore, as a consequence, as a result, so that, and so then [he had betrayed the king; therefore he was banished] [it’s time to leave, so let’s go].

The function of a final conjunction is independent of its position in a sentence.


To understand what’s going on, let’s forget the punctuation and word order. Take the two sentences, The bus was late. Many people consequently missed their appointments. In the second sentence, consequently looks like an adverb of manner, an adjunct, modifying missed. But is it? Adjuncts take their meaning from within the clause in which they are found, as would be the case if we substituted subsequently for consequently: Many people subsequently missed their appointments. There, the adverb clearly modifies the verb and nothing else. It means they missed their appointments at some later time.

Consequently is different. It doesn’t tell us anything about the manner in which or the time at which people missed their appointments, but relates the second sentence to the first. Missing appointments is a consequence of the lateness of the bus and consequently is a type of adverb known as a conjunct. In the words of ‘The Cambridge Guide to English Usage’, 'conjuncts . . . play a cohesive role between separate sentences, or clauses. They . . . express logical relationships such as addition, contrast and causation.’ That seems to me an altogether more helpful description than 'marker'. In both of the OP’s examples consequently plays the same role. As a matter of style, I prefer the punctuation in (b).


Words such as however, since they can do different things, are defined by their function more than their actual location in the sentence. Granted, position tends to dominate the role a word plays in a sentence but your best bet is to look at what job the word is doing

In your first example your marker word however is functioning as a conjunction. Thus the semicolon, comma, and clause as dictated by the protocol of conjunctions.

In the second example (which, you will note, does not need the two commas), your marker word is behaving like an adverb because it is a modifying the verb missed. No conjunction to be found, therefore no signal word. Use the grade-school standby questions on your alleged conjunctions to see if they're just being plain old adverbs.

  • How?
  • When?
  • Where?
  • In What Way?

This a handy trick since all it takes to change the function of words like still, consequently, and however is some clever rearrangement.

Adverbs will answer those questions and conjunctions will not. A word of caution, though: that last one in what way? is tricky, because conjunctive adverbs are still adverbs which means that sometimes a word like moreover will answer that question if it's combined with the right words.

The second example The bus was late. Many people consequently missed their appointments. contains two independent clauses, neither of which have a distinguishable marker. Independent clauses don't really need their own flag; all you need to test for an independent clause is a subject and verb (If identifying types of clauses is foggy, you should send me a private message or email).

To answer your question (finally, I apologize for my incessant verbosity):

Independent clauses can be marked by an adverb functioning as a conjunction Fun fact - adverbs that are capable of filling the shoes of a conjunction are called conjunctive adverbs (surprise!) but you can keep calling them "marker words" if that's what works for you.

Then boom. You bust out the semicolon. Hope this helps, brother Jim.

PS Be careful with commas; they are surprisingly easy to abuse.

  • -1: That is not at all what the word conjunction means. "However" does have a use as a conjunction, but that's completely different; it's seen in sentences like, "However big it may be, it's still not big enough." In a sentence like, "It's big; however, it's not big enough", you are right to call it a "conjunctive adverb", but wrong to say that it's "functioning as a conjunction". And it's still a conjunctive adverb even in, "It's big. It's not big enough, however."
    – ruakh
    Nov 27, 2011 at 2:00
  • On second thought, I retract my -1, because FumbleFingers above links to a page that uses your same terminology. It's very ugly -- the word "conjunction" is useful when we use it to mean what it actually means, instead of making up new meanings for it -- but it's not your own invention.
    – ruakh
    Nov 27, 2011 at 2:43
  • Never mind, it's been too long, StackExchange won't let me retract my vote. (Sorry for the comment-spam.)
    – ruakh
    Nov 27, 2011 at 2:44
  • Thanks Rant. I came across the 'marker' term in the process of preparing simple undergraduate-level writing exercises. I thought it useful up until they mentioned 'independent markers' then I panicked and thought that I'd missed something vital in my own education. It is, I'm guessing, a way to distinguish between the adverbial and conjunctive purpose of the words that you mention above, but I'm not sure if it creates more problems than it solves, if my experience is anything to go by. Now as for the commas, I see what you mean but I'm going to have to think about that further
    – Jim
    Nov 27, 2011 at 19:59

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