You may have heard others use the compound world “nonetheless” when speaking about two seemingly contradictory or conflicting ideas. However, understanding its usage can be confusing, and you may be wondering if it is correct.
It is correct to say “nonetheless” when describing an event or situation that occurred in spite of some other factor. It is a close synonym to words like “however,” “yet,” or “still” and means that while one event may have happened, another continued regardless. You can use this word when connecting two seemingly opposing ideas.
Keep reading to learn more about the meaning of “nonetheless,” how to use and punctuate with it correctly, and more about similar conjunctive adverbs.
What Does “Nonetheless” Mean?
The word “nonetheless” means “in spite of” or, despite what happened or what someone says, does, or refers to, another action or situation will continue (source). It is a conjunctive adverb that can link the ideas between two independent clauses or two ideas within a single sentence.
Even though “nonetheless” contains three separate words — “none,” “the,” and “less” — its meaning differs from these independent terms. Rather, these three words together create a compound word with a new, distinct meaning (source).
The best way to understand the word “nonetheless” is to think of it as a way to connect two seemingly opposite or contradictory ideas or expectations. It is similar to a cause-and-effect statement but differs in that rather than one event or situation causing something else to happen, a second even happens despite the first.
Another way to think about the meaning of this word is to consider situations you have encountered where the outcome did not change, even if something unexpected happened that would seem to impact your decision to move forward.
Here are a few examples illustrating this word’s meaning:
- I did not prepare for the exam. Nonetheless, I will do my best.
- It’s raining heavily today, but I will go for a run, nonetheless.
- She failed her midterm exams; nonetheless, she passed the course.
In each of these examples, using “nonetheless” shows how the latter event happened in spite of the former.
You may have noticed that the punctuation marks before and after “nonetheless” differ in each of the three sentences. We’ll talk about properly punctuating your sentences when using this word a bit later in the article.
Is “Nonetheless” the Same as “But”?
“But” is not quite the same as “nonetheless,” though they are very similar in meaning, and you can sometimes use them synonymously or even together in the same sentence.
A conjunction like “but” connects clauses, words, or phrases to create meaning. You would use “but” more commonly as a traditional conjunction joining groups of words to signal a contrast or difference between two ideas.
“Nonetheless” is an adverb or, more specifically, a conjunctive adverb that indicates that one event happened in spite of some other contributing factor, which is a little bit different than “but,” even when they can both work equally in some contexts.
Still, “nonetheless,” while similar in meaning, offers more specificity and suggests that one thing is not affected by another.
Because you can use “but” to introduce a clause, adding something to what you’ve previously said to show contrast (source), you would at times be able to use “but” and “nonetheless” interchangeably. Here’s an example:
- The forecast called for snow, but we had to go to school.
- The forecast called for snow. Nonetheless, we had to go to school.
In these examples, both “but” and “nonetheless” work. Still, remember that that is not always the case, and there are situations where using one or the other will better fit the context of your sentence.
So, “but” is more versatile in usage, and “nonetheless” is more specific in meaning when you want to show a particular relationship that signifies the idea of “in spite of” between two events, ideas, or outcomes.
Is It Correct to Say “Nonetheless”?
It is correct to say “nonetheless.” However, you’ll want to be sure to spell it as one single, compound word, not three separate words. Remember that it is a conjunctive adverb that you use to connect two independent clauses or link the ideas within a complex sentence (source).
Using “nonetheless” as a modifying adverb or as part of a parenthetical expression or phrase is also correct. We’ll discuss those uses shortly.
You can use “nonetheless” whenever you want to show that one thing happens despite something else, whether in speaking or your writing. It is neither particularly formal nor informal, so you’ll see it just as commonly in casual conversation as you will in an academic text.
Is It Grammatically Correct to Say “Nonetheless”?
It is grammatically correct to say “nonetheless,” but there are nuances to its usage and punctuation, including its placement within your sentence. It is correct to use “nonetheless” as a conjunctive adverb, a modifying adverb, or a parenthetical statement. However, each use requires different punctuation.
Remember, too, that using “nonetheless” correctly means that you are connecting ideas and showing a relationship between those ideas, specifically that one thing results in spite of another. Sometimes those ideas are simple, and, other times, they are more complex and longer in nature.
How Do You Use “Nonetheless”?
You can use “nonetheless” as a conjunctive adverb, linking two independent clauses. You can also use “nonetheless” to modify an adjacent verb, adjective, or another adverb. Or, you can use it in the middle of a sentence as a parenthetical element or interruptive thought.
Words like “nonetheless” can be challenging because there are a few different ways to use them, but regardless of how you choose to use the word in your sentence, its meaning does not change.
“Nonetheless” as a Conjunctive Adverb
The most common use for “nonetheless” is as a conjunctive adverb. Remember that conjunctive adverbs function as conjunctions because they connect two independent clauses.
There are quite a lot of conjunctive adverbs that you’ll become more familiar with over time, and we’ll go over some synonymous ones a bit further in the article. And, if you’d like to learn more about them, take a look at “Is it Correct to Say ‘And Therefore’?”
Typically, you’ll write “nonetheless” at the start of a sentence after completing a separate sentence with a contrasting, related idea. You can also use it to begin an independent clause while ending the prior clause with a semicolon.
When you begin a sentence with “nonetheless,” you must use a comma directly after, like this:
- It is raining heavily today. Nonetheless, I will put on my rain gear and go for a run.
Remember that each sentence on either side of “nonetheless” is an independent clause and can stand on its own. The word “nonetheless,” here a conjunctive adverb, shows that the latter event is going to happen or has happened in spite of the former.
In the example above, even though it’s raining and many people would prefer not to go outside for a run, the speaker chose to do so in spite of the rain.
You also don’t have to use a period after your first independent clause, given that the ideas in each clause are related. You can use a semicolon instead, which is a punctuation mark that you can use to combine longer, related sentences when you’d rather not use a period in favor of a longer, complex sentence (source).
Let’s look at the earlier example, this time with a semicolon:
- It is raining heavily today; nonetheless, I will put on my rain gear and go for a run.
You’ll note that you don’t need to capitalize “nonetheless” when you use it after a semicolon, and you’ll still need a comma after the word as well. Just remember that your independent clauses must be similar in subject matter when you use a semicolon, and it functions very much like a period.
“Nonetheless” as a Modifying Adverb
Because the word “nonetheless” is an adverb, you can use it to modify adjectives, verbs, or other adverbs, too. You do not need a comma before or after “nonetheless” when you use it in this way.
While using nonetheless as a conjunctive adverb requires particular punctuation, as a traditional adverb, it does not. In this way, it’s the easiest way to use the word without paying attention to punctuation. Remember, though, that the idea is to show a contrast between two ideas.
Here are two examples:
- Yesterday it snowed three inches, but I drove to work nonetheless.
- She was nonetheless kind to the customer, though his temper was unacceptable.
“Nonetheless” as a Parenthetical Element
A parenthetical element in a sentence is very similar to an interruptive thought or interjectory idea that you would add within a statement while speaking. In your writing, the word “nonetheless” as part of a parenthetical element adds emphasis to a contrast.
Many times, when you or someone else uses “nonetheless” in this way, rather than using the word by itself, you would use it as part of a larger phrase. This is probably a more complicated way to use the word, but there are times when it works well to illustrate a contrast.
Take a look at this example:
- Their new puppy, adorable nonetheless, continually chewed on his shoes.
In the above example, the parenthetical phrase using “nonetheless” must be wrapped in commas. Remember that it is a nonessential part of your sentence, though it adds a stylistic effect. If you remove the phrase altogether, your sentence would still be grammatically correct.
When Can You Use “Nonetheless”?
You can use “nonetheless” any time you are illustrating that one thing occurs in spite of something else. You can use it in both writing and speaking and in both formal and informal contexts.
“Nonetheless” is a very common word, and there’s little room for error as long as you understand its meaning to be quite similar to words like “however” or phrases such as “in spite of.”
The only challenge you may have in usage is when it comes to punctuation since how you choose to use the word affects the punctuation you need to add, whether a semicolon or commas.
In What Context Can You Use “Nonetheless”?
You can use “nonetheless” any time that you want to communicate that some event or situation occurs unexpectedly, in spite of some other factor, whether you imply it or state it explicitly.
Again, “nonetheless” is neither formal nor informal, so as long as the context fits your intended meaning, you can use it in many different situations to illustrate a contrast.
Using “Nonetheless” in a Full Sentence
Using “nonetheless” in a full sentence is fairly straightforward once you’ve grasped the punctuation and meaning. Remember, you will most often see and use it at the start of an independent clause as a conjunctive adverb, but you can also use it as a traditional modifying adverb or parenthetical expression.
Below are more examples showing you how you can use “nonetheless.”
Conjunctive Adverb With or Without a Semicolon:
- My daughter doesn’t want to nap. Nonetheless, she fell asleep in the car.
- My daughter doesn’t want to nap; nonetheless, she fell asleep in the car.
- She will nonetheless need to rest, even if she doesn’t want to take a nap.
- His quiet demeanor, nonetheless different from his family, was simply his personality.
Again, note the differences in punctuation. As a modifying adverb, you don’t need to use commas around “nonetheless.” However, as part of a parenthetical expression or phrase, you need to use commas before the word “nonetheless” and at the end of the interjection.
When Not to Use “Nonetheless”
You should not use “nonetheless” unless you are expressing a contrast between two unexpected ideas where one event or situation happens in spite of another. And while you can use it in many ways in your writing, you should be sure to do so with correct punctuation.
Remember, sometimes other conjunctions that show contrast work better than “nonetheless.” One example that we mentioned earlier is the word “but.” This word works well when you want to show a contrast that does not illustrate the idea of one thing occurring in spite of some other factor.
What Can You Use Instead of “Nonetheless”?
In addition to the conjunction “but,” there are also other words that work well or synonymously with “nonetheless.” Still, be sure to double-check the meaning of each to ensure you are using these words in the correct context, as some have a slightly different or nuanced meaning than “nonetheless.”
- Even so
- In spite of
In most contexts, you will need to use a comma after these words and phrases, particularly if you are using any one as a conjunctive adverb.
As we’ve mentioned, conjunctive adverbs are essentially adverbs that act as conjunctions, linking the ideas in two independent clauses or sentences or showing the relationship between ideas in a complex independent clause (source).
The table below lists a few of the most common conjunctive adverbs. This article was written for strategiesforparents.com.
Similar to “nonetheless,” when you use these conjunctive adverbs to connect two independent clauses, you must precede your first clause with a period or a semicolon, and you must then follow your conjunctive adverb with a comma.
- I love eating ice cream before bed. However, I know it’s probably not very healthy.
- My dog loves to go for walks; therefore, I take him around the block twice a day.
- My sister has long, red hair. Similarly, her daughter’s hair is also long and red.
Conjunctive adverbs and words like “nonetheless” can be tricky when learning how to punctuate them correctly. In time, remembering when you need a comma and when you do not will come easily. Until then, remember that using “nonetheless” correctly means that you are showing that one thing happens in spite of another.
When using it as a conjunctive adverb, you’ll need to use a comma after the word; when using it as a modifying adverb, you will most likely not need an adverb; and, when using it as part of a parenthetical expression, you’ll want to wrap your entire phrase in commas.