As I understand, the word "however" is synonymous to "but", except that it can only be used, to grossly simplify, at the beginning of sentences, like this:

"It was red. However, it was hard to see."

I am also coming to believe that it may be inserted in the middle of a phrase, if that phrase is near the beginning:

"It was red. It was, however, not easy to see."

Finally, I believe it is incorrect to use it as a substitute of "but", like this:

"It was red, however it was hard to see."

Is any of what I am saying here correct, if not, what are?

  • 1
    Personally when I'm using it as a "but" I precede it with a semicolon and put a comma after it. "The door was red; however, it was difficult to see." There's another meaning of the word which means something along the lines of "no matter to what extent" as well: "However hard you try, you'll never see that red door." That meaning does not necessarily have to be at the beginning of a sentence either since you could also write "You'll never see that red door however hard you try." Mar 14, 2016 at 21:06
  • There's nothing wrong with your final example, other than the punctuation. I can't put my finger on why punctuation that's fine for "but" is wrong for "however", but there's a difference.
    – Hot Licks
    Mar 14, 2016 at 21:27
  • @HotLicks: I believe that is because, the correct-seeming way of punctuation--It was red, however, it was hard to see--resembles the punctuation used for inserting a phrase in a sentence, like this--"he was tall, as was common for this generation, and had black hair." Anyways, my suggestions are limited to my observation of language use and I would like to know if there is any "authorized" way of using the language.
    – user289661
    Mar 14, 2016 at 21:56
  • 2
    I can think of examples where one could put it at the end of a sentence. e.g.*He was a tall man, but not the tallest in the team, however*.
    – WS2
    Mar 14, 2016 at 22:43

2 Answers 2


"However" is a rather versatile word, and its placement in a sentence can have a difference in meaning.

  • It can go at the start:

However, a sentence can change in meaning depending on word placement.

This "however" is similar to a "despite this/that" and should always be followed by a comma.

  • It can go at the end:

A sentence can change in meaning depending on word placement, however.

This is a variation on the first structure. The "however" could be replaced with a "though". It should always be preceded by a comma.

  • It can go in the middle (or elsewhere):

A sentence, however, can change in meaning depending on word placement.

Again, this is similar to the first construction. It can be more emphatic. Like the second, it is used similarly to a "though". It should be preceded and succeeded by a comma.

  • It can go in the middle (or elsewhere) with a different intention:

Sentences convey meaning; however, this meaning can change depending on word placement.

This "however" is used like a "but" and the general practice is to precede it with a semicolon and end it with a comma.

So you can be quite flexible with the use of "however"; however, (see what I did there?) it is not a bad idea to limit how often you use it to avoid repetition.

  • 2
    +1 However long and detailed your answer, there will still be more ways to use however :)
    – Born2Smile
    Mar 15, 2016 at 3:31
  • @Born2Smile And a +1 to you for a witty comment
    – Dog Lover
    Mar 15, 2016 at 5:15

'However' is adverbial. That is why it is isolated by comma[s]. Since its meaning is similar to 'but' (the previous phrase is related), it is OK to use ';' instead of '.' before 'however'.

'But' is a conjunction, which makes the whole following phrase adverbial.

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