Understanding the Subsequent Consequences

Actions have consequences. How often have you heard that?

But is it of any consequence if you use consequently and consequential interchangeably?

Consequences are results. Your child disobeys, the consequences are some form of discipline. You text while driving, the consequences may well be a ticket or a traffic accident.

Consequently and consequential are closely related, but have subtle differences in meaning. Consequently is a conjunctive adverb; it connects two independent clauses. Use it when something occurs as a result of something.

  • My alarm didn’t go off; consequently, I was late for work.

Consequential means following as an indirect or secondary result, or following as a logical conclusion.

  • Long-term unemployment and depleted housing stock were some of the consequential (indirect/secondary) effects of Hurricane Katrina.

The more common use and meaning of consequential is importance or significance.

  • Marigold’s family was in a frenzy as they prepared to entertain their Dutch uncle—a consequential man in the Netherlands. (Or you might say “a man of some consequence.”)

It can also mean pompous, self-important.

  • The chairman’s posture and consequential voice hinted at his prideful attitude.

Its opposite—inconsequential—refers to something trivial or insignificant.

  • The executive director does not want to be bothered with inconsequential details.

Take care not to use subsequent or subsequently when you mean consequent or consequently.  Consequently is used to show cause and effect. Subsequently relates to sequence or following after.

  • As a consequence of the Ebola virus, many US aid workers were evacuated from West Africa in late summer.
  • Subsequently, many returned to their posts.

Be sure you keep all these differences straight so you consequently won’t suffer adverse consequences.

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