the then incurable

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Roman Vladimirovich

Hello, everybody!

Could I have your explanation the following sample from Drakula by Bram Stoker
(published in the Unites States by Oxford University Press Inc., New York,
Editorial material Roger Luckhurst 2011)

"In 1975, the biography of Stoker by his grand-nephew Daniel Farson alleged
that Stoker had contracted syphilis, the then incurable and degenerative sexually
transmitted infection, ..."

The then incurable - What is this word-combination?

Thank you very much indeed!
  • e2efour

    Senior Member
    UK English
    It refers to the infection (in apposition to syphilis) which was incurable.... at the time.

    In 50 years time we could talk about President Chavez, the then president of Venezuela.


    Senior Member
    English - British
    It is a combination of adverb and adjective. The adverb modifies the adjective.
    The basic pattern is seen in phrases such as 'the very beautiful Marilyn Monroe'.

    'The then incurable infection' means 'the infection which was then (at the period mentioned) incurable'. Using 'then' in this way is standard and commmon.


    Senior Member
    English - South-East England
    Several simple adverbs of time can be used to modify an adjective: the infection was incurable then though not now, so it was the then-incurable infection. (These combinations are often hyphenated but don't have to be.) Likewise the now-bankrupt Lehman Brothers. Already is also used this way.
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