I had a number of students in my class using ‘however’ and ‘therefore’ as conjunctions and this was starting to grate on me, so yesterday I gave them a mini-lecture on the matter. I started out by putting ‘but’ and ‘however’ on the blackboard and asking them what part of speech each of the words was. Dead silence. Finally, one guy (one of my better students, incidentally) asked if they were prepositions.
I was about ready to pronounce the demise of Western civilization.
Now don’t get me wrong here. This isn’t a particularly important matter (students get much more important things wrong, trust me). Nor is it the sort of thing that I would expect most people to know. On the other hand, I’m teaching a class of smart students at an elite university. And not a single one recognizes ‘but’ as a conjunction?? So what did they learn in high school?