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Do we put a comma before "then" when it's the last word in a sentence?

If she goes, I'm not going, then.

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Your example is non-idiomatic in the first place. The standard form would be "If she goes then I'm not going". Most people wouldn't put a comma before "then", but it would really depend on whether you intended to indicate a pause in the spoken form, rather than on any specific grammatical rule. –  FumbleFingers Feb 12 at 14:47
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In your specific example, the presence of the comma determines the meaning. "If she goes, I'm not going, then." -> If she goes, I'm not going at all. "If she goes, I'm not going then." -> If she goes, I'm not going at the same time, but I might go at a different time. But I agree with @FumbleFingers, it's a poor construction to begin with. –  Roger Feb 12 at 15:34
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@Roger: Your point is very relevant. To my ear, putting "then" at the end is so bad it's a bit pointless wondering whether to include a comma or not. But in my suggested rephrasing, putting a comma after "then" would strongly imply the at that time sense. As opposed to the in that case sense, which would probably be the default reading with no punctuation or additional context. –  FumbleFingers Feb 12 at 15:44

1 Answer 1

There are examples where you should use it, and others where you shouldn't.

Is she going? I'm not going, then.

In this case, "I'm not going, then" is equivalent to "Then I'm not going". If you change this example to a single conditional statement ("If she's going, then I'm not going"), then — as the comments indicate — you would not transpose 'then' to put it at the end of the sentence.

Q. Shall we meet at eight o'clock?
A. Sure, let's meet then.

In this case, "then" is a reference to the phrase "at eight o'clock" used by the person asking the question.

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Does this sort of comma have a name or identifier? i.e. "the oxford comma" or "those weird commas you use instead of parenthesis" –  Sandy Gifford Jun 27 at 23:59
    
I could not tell you the technical name — but parenthetical as the word might be, you should never put "then" in parentheses in any context like what I describe above. –  Niel de Beaudrap Jun 28 at 0:40
    
Guh... I've been trying to figure out what this little guy is called forever. I can't even figure out how to phrase my Google searches ("comma before last word also, then" doesn't seem to cut it). –  Sandy Gifford Jun 28 at 0:54

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