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Comma after ‘then’: The Ultimate Guide

Comma after ‘then’: The Ultimate Guide

In relation to “then”, it can be quite difficult to decide when using a comma is appropriate. This is because it can be used in a myriad of ways, each unrelated to one another.

Then” is also a word that you will have included often in your writing, which is why we’ve made it a point to make sure that you’re fully up to speed on how to use commas after “then”.  

Let’s dive into the meat of what makes placing a comma after “then” necessary.

 

Is a comma after “then” required?

“Then” is mostly used as a temporal adverb, so including a comma after “then” is unnecessary since it breaks up the sentence needlessly. When “then” is used as an adverb at the beginning of the sentence, however, a comma should be introduced following it. A comma after “then” is also necessary when it is preceded by a semicolon. Additionally, if “then’ is used as a conjunction, placing a comma after it is not considered to be grammatically correct. Overall, a comma after “then’ is not required, however, there are a couple of occasions in which you might deem necessary.  

Comma Rules Cheat Sheet

 

When “then” is used as a temporal adverb

When we use “then” as a temporal adverb, a comma should not be placed following it.

As an adverb, “then”, is used to change the meaning of the sentence, having a strong impact on the reader’s understanding: 

Example 1: He then became the principal of our school.

As you can see above, “then” is not followed by a comma. This is the correct way of structuring the sentence because it doesn’t isolate “then” from the verb which it highlights: “to become”.

A temporal adverb must always be included as a continuous part of an independent clause, rather than a separate one. You should use this example as guidance when you are looking to write academic papers and professional correspondence

Example 2: He then, became the principal of our school.

In Example 2, “then” is followed by a comma, which is incorrect. As mentioned above, “then” shouldn’t be followed by a comma when it is as a temporal adverb.

You might have noticed that this example is not as easy to read as the first one.

 

When “Then” is located at the beginning of the sentence

If “then” is located in the beginning of a sentence, rather than in the beginning, a comma can be placed based on rhythm and tone. The examples below will highlight this rule: 

Example 1: Then Katya decided that we weren’t going to go forward with our plan.

In this example, “then” is used as an introductory adverb; its function is to initiate a new clause. However, a comma after “then” is not introduced in this case to create a quicker rhythm.

In academic papers and professional settings you would not use this sentence structure because it comes across as more convivial. 

Example 2: Then, Katya decided that we weren’t going to go forward with our plan.

This example showcases a sentence structure that is universally considered to be grammatically correct. In this case, a comma is placed after “then”, which separates “then” as an introductory adverb from the rest of the sentence.

The rhythm of the sentence is interrupted at the comma to pause the reader. You should use this example as guidance when writing in professional settings

 

What about when “then” is preceded by a semicolon?

When “then” is used after a semicolon, a comma should be placed. The following examples will highlight this rule:

Example 1: Richard tried speaking to her; then, he decided to move past their issue.

“Then” acts as a sort of conjunction in this case, as it creates a bridge between the two separate parts of the sentence.

A semicolon is placed after “her”, while a comma is placed after “then”.

This is because, similarly as to when “then” I used as an introductory adverb, “then” is introduced to initiate an essential clause, separate from the rest.

Following this example, the sentence will be broken up in a way that makes it easier for the reader to engage. A comma after “then”, if it is preceded by a semicolon, is necessary. 

Example 2: Richard tried speaking to her; then he decided to move past their issue.

In the above example, a comma after “then” is not placed, which is incorrect. It is necessary for “then” to be followed by a comma in this case. 

Comma after then

 

“Then” as a conjunction

In the examples below, how to use a comma when “then” is used as a conjunction will be highlighted.

This is what teachers will refer to as an “if/then” sentence construction. When “if” is used as an introductory adverb and “then” is used as a conjunction, a comma should not be placed after “then”. Here’s one:

Example 1: If you call the restaurant, then I’ll drive you there.

In the example above, “then” connects two parts of the sentence. It modifies the information given because it adds temporal context, putting crucial meaning onto the sentence. “Then” is not isolated by commas to create a continuous flow. 

Example 2: If you call the restaurant, then, I’ll drive you there.

In this case, “then” also connects two parts of the sentence, but it is isolated. This is a grammatical choice that is not universally accepted.

You can include commas in your writing, if you deem it appropriate, to allow tone to come across, however you should not use the example above as guidance. 

 

Conclusion

Therefore, we can deduct from these examples that a comma after “then” is not necessary, however, it is sometimes recommended.

A comma after “then” can also be placed to emphasize tone and rhythm, making it a fantastic stylistic choice.

Being aware of how to use the right punctuation is one of the best things that you can do to improve your writing. As you continue to advance, you will truly realize how commas have the power to affect your texts