The Incredible “However” (1)

“Social media is a giant distraction to the ultimate aim, which is honing your craft as a songwriter. There are people who are exceptional at it, however, and if you can do both things, then that’s fantastic, but if you are a writer, the time is better spent on a clever lyric than a clever tweet.” — Bryan Adams


Before writing this I searched several English language websites about making statements to show “partial agreement”. Here are some examples:

  1. Your idea is great, but I’m afraid I cannot agree.
  2. I partially agree with you.

These are useful in spoken interactions, especially during discussion sections in oral examinations. What about writing our essays? We’ve been told constantly not to use personal pronouns “I” to construct our arguments so that they don’t seem subjective. Then, we need to find a way to express our ideas objectively, effectively directing readers towards your standpoint, and making your argument coherent in your essay. I hereby propose a word that serves these purposes: “however”, or its equivalents; but I will focus on “however” in particular here.

We were taught the part of speech of “however” at school, that is, an adverb to signal concession. Meanwhile, the concessive signals can be conveyed by words across other grammatical categories, such as but (conjunction), despite (preposition), actually (adverb), contrary (adjective), contrast (verb) and so on. Having to memorise these items from various parts of speech can be painstaking – any painstaking ways to learn a language is detrimental to progress.

So from this point on let’s call these resources “counterexpectancy” (meaning that we categorise words by their “meanings” or “functions” – to counter expectation in this case), so that whenever you need to express meanings in relation to countering expectations, you know you have a range of choices without having to look up their grammatical categories. Now the question is: whose expectations are we countering?

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