comma or not before 'then' [conjunctive adverb]: is there a rule?

Discussion in 'English Only' started by jjshell, Sep 27, 2007.

  1. jjshell Member

    France - French

    What is the rule with the word "then" used as an adverb, does one have to use a comma before it? Are there sentences without commas before the adverb then? Can one simply chose?
  2. Dimcl Senior Member

    British Columbia, Canada
    Canadian English
    I'm not familiar with any rule, per se. It would be nice for you to give us a couple of sample sentences to illustrate what you mean, jjshell, because there are any number of contexts where this might apply.
  3. twen Senior Member

    U.S.A. - English
    I'll take a stab at it:

    If. . . . , then. . . . (like a hypothesis in science), but in common usage the idea of "then" is usually understood instead of written: If you are late, [then] we will eat dinner without you.

    As a conjunctive adverb, don't use a comma after it (one syllable):
    Mark drove the car down the street; then I heard a loud crashing noise.

    As a filler, comma before and after:
    Well, then, what do you propose we do?

    Not great examples, but I hope this helps.
  4. jjshell Member

    France - French
    Sorry for the late reply :)

    Here is an example: "She takes a deep breath, makes a few steps, then dives into the swimming pool." Or another: "They entered the room, said hello, then sat on the couch."

  5. AngelEyes

    AngelEyes Senior Member

    English - United States

    I wouldn't use commas in these versions of your sentences:

    She takes a deep breath and then dives into the pool.
    They entered the room and then sat on the couch.
    They entered the room and then said hello.

    I would use the comma in your sentences you've given us above in your post. I think these become serial commas in your sentences, used to separate a series of actions. I would add the word and, though:

    1. She takes a deep breath, makes a few steps, and then dives into the swimming pool.
    2. They entered the room, said hello, and then sat on the couch.

  6. aircraftman3 New Member

    Native: Polish; Variety: Englis(???)
    I would agree. If there is a case where we list things (like: 1- takes a deep breath, 2- makes a few steps, 3- [then] sat on the couch), and we list more than, or three things, we put comma before every each part, before and too. Personally, it has been being acquired quite awkwardly by me, a Polish student, mailny because in Polish language there's no comma before the and that comes at the end of listing. Though, I am completelly familiar with this rule now.
    Last edited: Dec 29, 2008

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