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08:52 Oct 31, 2006
English to English translations [PRO]
Linguistics / Is however a conjunction?
English term or phrase: however
Can 'however' be used as a conjunction?

The Danish equivalent can, so it comes up, often in very formal texts (legal, for instance). As a rule I formulate them with a different conjunction and put the 'however' in somewhere else.

-- The following sentence sounds wrong to me:
The right to vote may be exercised by proxy, however, this does not apply to the election of officers.

and I would rephrase it as:
The right to vote may be exercised by proxy, but this does not apply, however, to the election of officers.

Many of my favourite gurus are silent on the point (Michael Swan, Greenbaum & Whitcut, Gowers, Quirk & Greenbaum)
- while Geoffrey Howard says that in a sentence with 'but' or 'although' the word 'however' is superfluous.

On the whole I agree with him, but in very formal writing
(leaving out however :-) just here)
- and when translating the frequently used Danish 'dog' that often precedes a clause limiting a right or a situation as in the example above, something more emphatic than 'but' is really called for .

In these legal contexts, reformulating the sentence is not an option!

So the question is, do you really need both?

Rule 707 applies, but not, however, on Sundays.
(This may be surprising, so 'however' is necessary.)

Bicycles may be parked in the yard, but the emergency exits must not be obstructed. (No 'however' is necessary, although Danish happily uses 'dog'. The limitation is logical when you think about it.)

(Cykler kan parkeres i gaarden, dog må noedudgangene ikke blokeres.)

Bicycles may be parked in the yard, however, the emergency exits must not be blocked.
-- simply sounds wrong to me, as if something is missing.

Am I being over-pedantic?
Christine Andersen
Denmark
Local time: 08:14
English translation:see answer
Explanation:
The problem with your first sentence is one of punctuation: there should be a semi-colon after "proxy":

The right to vote may be exercised by proxy; however, this does not apply to the election of officers.

You could put a comma, and then use "but", and the difference is one of force. Using "however" makes a stronger point.

The same convention applies to your final sentence about the bicyles (in terms of punctuation), but I think using "but" is probably better in this case.
It's not wrong to use both, and as you say, it can indicate an element of surprise, even though it may be logically superfluous.

It's often a matter of choice, as Jonathan says, but the punctuation is important.


Hope this helps.

Pedants of the world unite!

Selected response from:

maryrose
Local time: 15:44
Grading comment
Thanks, that lifts a weight from my mind!
I wonder why I did not think of it myself, but that is so easy to say!

The semicolon might be a brilliant solution where rephrasing upsets an already complex sentence...

And thannks to everyone else who agreed or commented.
4 KudoZ points were awarded for this answer

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Summary of answers provided
4 +5see answermaryrose


Discussion entries: 1





  

Answers


10 mins   confidence: Answerer confidence 4/5Answerer confidence 4/5 peer agreement (net): +5
see answer


Explanation:
The problem with your first sentence is one of punctuation: there should be a semi-colon after "proxy":

The right to vote may be exercised by proxy; however, this does not apply to the election of officers.

You could put a comma, and then use "but", and the difference is one of force. Using "however" makes a stronger point.

The same convention applies to your final sentence about the bicyles (in terms of punctuation), but I think using "but" is probably better in this case.
It's not wrong to use both, and as you say, it can indicate an element of surprise, even though it may be logically superfluous.

It's often a matter of choice, as Jonathan says, but the punctuation is important.


Hope this helps.

Pedants of the world unite!



maryrose
Local time: 15:44
Does not meet criteria
Native speaker of: English
PRO pts in category: 4
Grading comment
Thanks, that lifts a weight from my mind!
I wonder why I did not think of it myself, but that is so easy to say!

The semicolon might be a brilliant solution where rephrasing upsets an already complex sentence...

And thannks to everyone else who agreed or commented.

Peer comments on this answer (and responses from the answerer)
agree  Jonathan MacKerron: yes, a semi-colon would do the trick here
7 mins

agree  Armorel Young: totally agree; the semi-colon before however is essential (because however is an adverb, not a conjunction), and using but + however doesn't work as the asker suggests but only in "but not, however, to the election of officers" (i.e. reinforcing "not")
8 mins

agree  xxxcmwilliams: yes, the first sentence is not correct as it stands. It must have a semi-colon or be reworded.
41 mins

agree  Dave Calderhead: and with all of the above
1 hr

agree  Ken Cox: good explanation
1 hr
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