How to use and punctuate ‘however’

Posted on 1 April 2015 by Lucy Gregory

Using ‘however’ to mean ‘nonetheless’

However is most commonly used to show that a statement contrasts with earlier information. You can put it at the beginning, middle or end of a sentence, depending on how you want to emphasise your point. Where you put the word is a matter of judgement; how you punctuate it, is not.

If however goes at the beginning of a sentence, you need a comma after it:

Doug was pleased with his team’s performance. However, he realised there was room for improvement.

If you want to show the two ideas are closely connected, you can use a semicolon between the sentences instead of a full stop:

Doug was pleased with his team’s performance; however, he realised there was room for improvement.

 
If however goes in the middle of a sentence, it needs a comma on either side:

Doug was pleased with his team’s performance. He realised, however, there was room for improvement.

 
If however goes at the end of a sentence, you need a comma before it:

Doug was pleased with his team’s performance. He realised there was room for improvement, however.

 

Common mistakes

The most common mistake I come across is someone using however to join two sentences:

In our last report we predicted a fall in inflation, however, the steepness of the fall has taken the market by surprise.

These are two distinct sentences and they need to be separated by a full stop or semicolon after inflation:

In our last report we predicted a fall in inflation. However, the steepness of the fall has taken the market by surprise.

 

‘No matter how’

If you use however to mean ‘no matter how’, it goes at the beginning of a sentence and there’s no comma after it:

However hard Thomas tried, he couldn’t concentrate after lunch.

 

Emphasising ‘how’

The final use worth mentioning is adding ever to how for emphasis. You know when you’re doing this because you can remove ever from the sentence and it still makes sense. In this context, it should be written as two words, not one:

How ever did you manage that?