English is an evolving language, and the process is shifting at different paces across the globe.
Hence is an archaic word, originating from German, and first recorded in English in the late 13th century.
It made its way into common usage in the era of Middle English and became popular in several forms through William Shakespeare’s use of the word in his plays.
It is a complex word as it can be used to make reference to time, place, consequences and even the afterlife.
What is the meaning of the word hence?
It is a formal word and is to be used sparingly. It is best reserved for academic texts or writings of a serious nature. You would not use it in an essay about your holiday at the seaside, for example. ‘Hence’ is an adverb, and in its simplest form means ‘from this time’ or ‘from this place’. In its most archaic form, ‘hence’ means ‘depart’ and can be used as a euphemism, meaning ‘to die’. In some of Shakespeare’s texts, he appears to use it as a verb. In its most common modern-day form, ‘hence’ is used as a conjunctive adverb in which case the meaning is ‘therefore’, ‘for this reason’ or ‘from this source’.
How to us ‘hence’ in a sentence
Hence Meaning ‘from this place’
In other words, “Go away from here. However you do it, make sure you leave this place.” More bluntly stated, one could say, “Get out of my sight!”
The implication is that the starting point is the immediate vicinity and not some other point.
Once again the reference point is the immediate area (here). The statement could read, “The meeting was held a mile from here.”
When the word ‘hence’ occurs in the middle of a sentence, in this context, it is followed by a comma.
Hence meaning ‘from this time’
As with the ‘place’ connotation, the time being referred to is now, i.e. the present time or day. This statement will not be true a week after this.
Derivatives of this meaning of ‘hence’, are ‘henceforth’ and ‘henceforward’.
‘Henceforth’ means ‘in the future’, ‘from now on’ or ‘from this time forward’, whereas ‘henceforward’ means ‘from that time on or forward’.
The modern equivalent to this sentence may be: As the pantry has been pilfered, the door will remain locked from now on.
This could be written: As someone stole food from the pantry, the door was kept locked.
As with the spatial context of the word, ‘hence’, a comma follows if it used in the middle of a sentence.
Hence meaning ‘depart’
In his musical drama, ‘Semele’ which debuted in February 1744, Handel uses the word ‘hence’ as a verb. Its meaning is ‘ to depart’ or, in more archaic terms, ‘begone’.
However, the use of the word, ‘hence’ implies that the departure must take place ‘from this point’ or ‘from here’.
Hence Iris, hence away,
Far from the realms of day;
O’er Scythian Hills to the Meotian Lake
a speedy flight we’ll take:
This use of the word is not found in the modern English language.
Hence meaning ‘to die’
Similarly, the use of ‘hence’ to speak of the ‘dear departed’, is also out of fashion. This is how the English during Shakespeare’s time would have used it.
This would have been a polite way of saying that the mother and father were taken ‘from this life to the next’, or ‘from the living to the dead’.
Few people would understand this term if you used it today.
Hence meaning ‘therefore’ – conjunction joining two clauses
When ‘hence’ is used to mean ‘therefore’ or ‘consequently’, it is used as a conjunctive adverb which links two or more concepts together.
‘They failed to return her goods on time’, and ‘Adelaide billed them for the full amount’, are each complete sentences, with a subject, a verb and an object. ‘Hence’ is used to link the two concepts together.
In this context, the above sentence could be written in two parts.
The word, ‘therefore’ can easily be substituted for ‘hence’ in this instance.
Hence meaning ‘therefore’ – short form
There is a shortened sentence format that means the same as the above example but is phrased differently.
As you can see, the portion of the sentence after the word ‘hence’ cannot stand alone as there is no subject or verb. The statement cannot be split into two sentences and still make sense.
While the sentence is correct when ‘hence’ is used, it would be wrong if the word ‘therefore’ were to be substituted.
Hence meaning ‘therefore’ – using ‘and’ with ‘hence’
If the clauses being conjoined by the word, ‘hence’ are cumbersome, the combination of ‘and‘ and ‘hence’, both acting as conjunctions, can be used to create a longer pause in the sentence.
The sentence above can be written as follows, using ‘and’.
Alternatively, the short form would look like this:
How to use hence at the beginning of sentence?
It is correct grammar to begin a sentence with the word ‘hence’ but it must be clearly linked to a preceding concept in order to put the sentence in context.
This sentence leaves you asking, ‘Why did the sales plummet?’ when it is implied that the reason is apparent.
Substituting the word ‘hence’ for the word, ‘therefore’, although formal, can lend variety to a passage, text or article because of its versatility.
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