Adjunct vs. Conjunct vs. Disjunct Adverbs

You’d have heard multiple terminology on adverb: adverb, conjunctive adverb, comment adverb, and sentence adverb. This post attempts to put them side by side and clarify the difference between them.

Before we dive into the topic, here is a pictorial overview of the above four adverb terminologies:

Difference between adjunct, conjunct, and disjunct adverbs

(Feel free to use this image for own use, using the above link for attribution, which is also the url of this post.)

Adverbs come in three flavors – adjunct, conjunct, and disjunct. Adjuncts modify words and phrases; the other two modify independent clauses or sentences and hence are together called sentence adverbs.

Let’s take each.

1. Adjunct

(In common parlance, adjuncts are known as regular adverbs of time, place, manner, degree, frequency, etc.)

They modify verbs, adjectives, and other adverbs. They’re essential to the meaning of a sentence, and you may lose significant meaning if you drop them. Examples:

I’ll finish the assignment tomorrow. [The adjunct tomorrow modifies finish. If you drop it, you’ll lose crucial information.]

Tom lost the race narrowly.

There was a power outage again.

He was dressed too shabbily for the occasion.

2. Conjunct

(In common parlance, conjuncts are known as conjunctive adverbs.)

Conjuncts modify an entire clause or sentence while connecting it logically to another clause or sentence. They’re optional; they can be taken out without affecting the meaning. They are usually placed at the beginning of a clause or sentence and separated from the independent clause by a comma. Examples:

Our revenue is down this quarter. Therefore, we’ve to increase price of our products. [The conjunct therefore modifies the entire sentence and provides a logical connection (of reason) between the two sentences.]

We missed the tender because no one cared to check for it; henceforth, the responsibility for checking will be yours. [As opposed to the previous example, here we’ve one sentence containing two clauses separated by semicolon. Conjunct henceforth logically links the two clauses.]

With growing income disparities in the society, government must strengthen its skilling program for the unemployed and improve welfare programs for the poor; otherwise, hunger will drive the wolf out of the wood.

Resplendent with green and teaming with flowers and butterflies, a garden can be uplifting. Likewise, a book, with its nuggets of wisdom and entertainment, can be uplifting.

Common conjuncts are therefore, in addition, however, nonetheless, nevertheless, moreover, otherwise, hence, accordingly, also, besides, certainly, consequently, finally, furthermore, incidentally, indeed, instead, likewise, meanwhile, next, now, similarly, still, then, thereafter, thus, and undoubtedly.

3. Disjunct

(In common parlance, disjuncts are known as comment adverbs.)

Like conjuncts, disjuncts too are optional, and they too modify an entire clause or sentence. But they’re functionally different: They don’t build logical connection like conjuncts do; they express writer’s opinion or attitude on the clause or sentence. They’re usually placed at the beginning of a sentence and separated from the main clause by a comma, but they can come elsewhere in the sentence as well. Examples:

Sadly, the iconic actor passed away last night. [The actor didn’t pass away sadly. (It doesn’t modify any verb, adjective, or other adverb in the sentence.) The person writing the sentence has expressed sadness at the actor’s passing away.]

Undoubtedly, this decision is going to backfire big time.

Theoretically, we should be able to launch the product in two months.

Realistically, our team doesn’t stand much chance in today’s match.

Common disjuncts are unfortunately, realistically, sadly, certainly, frankly, honestly, luckily, naturally, clearly, obviously, surprisingly, thankfully, regrettably, presumably, ironically, fortunately, and apparently.

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