I know adverbs are multifarious, but I’d like to find out just how farious they are. I’m trying to work out what properties they can have by looking at variations in the way different ones can be used. I’m especially interested in how they relate to conjunctions.

I find (1) below perfectly natural, whereas (2) hurts my ears:

(1) Although he was sick, he nevertheless went in to work

(2) Because he was sick, he therefore stayed at home

I’m not sure at this point whether the problem [that I perceive] with (2) is syntactic or semantic, but I’d like to understand the syntax better.

Although and because are both subordinating conjunctions, so it seems reasonable to expect them to behave in the same way. On that basis any syntactic issue must be to do with nevertheless and therefore.

Nevertheless is an adverb that modifies a clause by flagging that whatever it expresses might be unexpected given whatever has just been said.

Therefore is an adverb that modifies a clause by flagging that whatever it expresses is a consequence of whatever has just been said.

If I take out although and because, the two adverbs seem to behave in more or less the same way:

He was sick but nevertheless went into work

He was sick and therefore stayed at home

He was sick; nevertheless, he went in to work

He was sick; therefore, he stayed at home

The only difference I can really find is that therefore demands a comma if it is moved to the end, whereas nevertheless is happy without one.

Therefore has been described as a connective, but I think that must also be true of nevertheless, which has to refer back to whatever it is that sets up the expectation.

Is it possible that they are both connectives but that they connect different syntactic units? It feels as though, in (2), the referent of therefore includes because, whereas, in (1), the referent of nevertheless does not include although. I do not know how I could describe that in linguistic terms, though.

I also have a vague feeling that there is a determiner or quantifier hiding in therefore but not in although. I can't really articulate it any better than that so don't know how to test this idea. Perhaps it's just another way of saying that the scope of the referent is different.

  • "Although" and "because" are best analysed as prepositions, not subordinators, see here:link and here: link. Try re-analysing your examples with that in mind.
    – BillJ
    Commented Mar 5, 2019 at 7:36
  • @BillJ thanks, but as long as they are in the same category (and provided it's not a catch-all category like 'adverbs') I think the analysis would come out the same. I'm interested in why it might be better to categorise them as prepositions and checked out the links, but the reasoning doesn't seem to be given.
    – user23078
    Commented Mar 7, 2019 at 1:44
  • @BillJ doesn't (2) suggest that because conveys not only that one clause expresses a cause, but also that the other clause expresses its consequence? If not because I was tired I therefore went to bed would be OK. If because marks two separate clauses in this way, I can't see how it can be a preposition.
    – rchivers
    Commented Mar 31, 2020 at 10:40

1 Answer 1


I’ll have a go at answering the question myself, in the hope that others will chime in:

While therefore and nevertheless are both connective adverbs, they differ syntactically in that therefore cannot connect to an element which is lower in the tree.

The problem with because he was sick, he therefore stayed at home is that the only possible referent of therefore is lower in the tree, in the subordinate clause.

Nevertheless is not so picky.

However is similar in meaning to nevertheless but behaves more like therefore in this respect:

x although he was sick, however he went in to work / x because he was sick, therefore he stayed at home

he was sick; however he went in to work / he was sick; therefore he stayed at home

he was sick but, however, went in to work / he was sick and, therefore, went in to work

Although however is redundant in the last example, the sentence strikes me as grammatical.

It seems therefore that connective adverbs are characterised, in part, by whether they can take a subordinate clause as their referent.

  • I think the problem with 'although...however' and 'because...therefore' is that each has complete semantic redundancy. cf 'because...thereafter' which works since 'thereafter' constrains time but not causation.
    – amI
    Commented Dec 3, 2019 at 9:01

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