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Can the word ‘hence’ be used at the beginning of a sentence? For example:

Hence, I am not feeling well, I am unable to work.

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What exactly is your question? –  psmears Apr 1 '11 at 11:06

7 Answers 7

Hence is one of the ablative demonstratives, the others being thence and whence. All of them sound archaic, especially the latter two. Their literal meanings are "from here," "from there," and "from where," respectively, but they can also mean "because of this," "because of that," and "because of which." (cf. also the allative demonstratives hither, thither, and whither.: "to here," "to there," "to where.")

The example in the original post would be correct if the previous sentence expressed an event likely to cause sickness.

I am not able to restrain myself whenever there is dollar margarita night. Hence I am not feeling well this morning, and won't report to work today.

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Don’t use a comma after that Hence. –  tchrist Nov 28 '12 at 2:57
    
@tchrist fixed. –  jlovegren Nov 28 '12 at 4:33

When used in one of its archaic forms it's conceivable to have 'hence' appear as the first word of a sentence.

Hence go I, for the mistreatment I endured.

Hence was my young wife taken, after a losing duel with death.

I'm sure you can find equally awkward constructs that are still grammatically correct.

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The first comma in each of your examples is plain wrong: it divides 'Hence' from the verb to which it applies. –  TimLymington Jul 5 '11 at 9:47
    
@TimLymington: Thanks. The correction has been made. –  oosterwal Nov 27 '12 at 23:04
  1. Needless to say, "Hence, I am not feeling well, I am unable to work" is absurd.

  2. "Since I am not feeling well, I am unable to work" implies the cause ("I am not feeling well") is already known to the listener.

  3. "I am unable to work, for I am not feeling well" is also close to this sense.

  4. "As I am not feeling well, I am unable to work" sounds better if the cause is given as as an information (rather than an implication as in "Since...").

  5. And, if the cause is accented, you had better use "because" reversing the order of the clauses.

Please correct me if I am wrong.

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"Hence" is a final conjunction; hence it should not be used at the beginning of a sentence in formal writing, according to the Chicago Manual of Style.

Other final conjunctions include thus, so and therefore.

You could rephrase your sentence as:

I am not feeling well; hence I am unable to work.

or

Since I am not feeling well, I am unable to work.

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4  
The Chicago Manual of Style is a fine reference to cite, but on this issue it is just as wrong as can be. Sentences beginning with hence, thus, and therefore are extremely common in academic writing. Searching COCA for a period followed by thus gets a staggering 23,086 hits! Such sentences even occur on the Chicago Manual of Style web site: Hence a car owned by John and Jim can be expressed as “John and Jim’s car.” –  Jason Orendorff Oct 1 '11 at 18:44
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+1 @Jason Orendorff - Touché, sir. I do prefer a prescriptive approach to formal writing, rather than following popular usage patterns. However, when even the chosen prescriptive guide ignores its own rule, maybe it's time to drop it. –  Ergwun Oct 2 '11 at 6:06
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Bah, humbug! That’s just so much nonsense. Fortunately, real writers know better than to pay attention to it. His real business was far more difficult and dangerous, but the Shire-folk knew nothing about it. To them he was just one of the ‘attractions’ at the Party. Hence the excitement of the hobbit-children. ‘G for Grand!’ they shouted, and the old man smiled. –  tchrist Nov 28 '12 at 1:33

Something no one has pointed out here.

Hence can also be followed directly by a noun. Examples:

He is sick, hence his absence.

It is winter, hence the snow.

I just received a promotion at work, hence the new car.

His mother was a piano teacher, hence his interest in classical music.

In all of these, the second clause is the situation or thing being queried and the first gives an explanation/reason as to how it arose.

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You can use hence at the beginning of a sentence, but not like that. Because it means "therefore", it needs to come after the cause. If you want a conjunction that can come before the cause, use since.

Since I am not feeling well, I am unable to work.

I am not feeling well, hence I am unable to work.

I am not feeling well; therefore, I am unable to work.

I am not feeling well. Hence, I am unable to work.

I am unable to work since I am not feeling well.

Like Neil Coffey said, hence can sound a bit formal. (I wouldn't say it's very formal, just a bit more formal than, say, since.) I think the most natural-sounding way to tell your boss you're sick would be something like:

I'm not feeling well, so I can't come in today.

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+1 for examples. –  Jimi Oke Apr 2 '11 at 1:36
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Your example "I am not feeling well. Hence, I am unable to work." is disapproved of by the Chicago Manual of Style. "Hence" is a final conjunction, and should not be used at the beginning of a sentence. –  Ergwun May 3 '11 at 5:40
    
I don’t understand the comma. All the examples I looked at by reputable writers that have sentences starting with Hence have no comma immediately thereafter. –  tchrist Nov 28 '12 at 2:57
    
@Ergwun: Excerpt from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, 5.48: "A personal pronoun does not govern the case of a relative pronoun. Hence an objective pronoun such as me may be the antecedent..." :) ------ See 5.191 Beginning a sentence with a conjunction: "... In fact, a substantial percentage (often as many as 10 percent) of the sentences in first-rate writing begin with conjunctions..." ------ See also grammarist.com/grammar/conjunctions : "A final conjunction may also be used to start a sentence that draws a conclusion from the preceding sentence." –  pabouk Jun 20 at 17:34
    
@pabouk Yeah, I conceded this one about 3 years ago :) english.stackexchange.com/questions/18909/… –  Ergwun Jun 22 at 23:58

I'd rather write your example using since like:

Since I'm not feeling well, I'm unable to work.

"Hence" is a synonym of "therefore", "consequently", "because of that", etc, and being a conjunctive adverb that connects a main clause and a subordinate one, it should appear within the subordinate:

I'm not feeling well; hence, I'm unable to work.

You put a semicolon and a comma after like that, but there are also other ways. I'll edit if I find good examples. If someone can integrate, feel free to do it.

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Hence is often used to connect logically with the preceding sentence. In your example you could alternatively put a full stop after well. –  z7sg Ѫ Apr 1 '11 at 11:50
    
The semicolon probably isn't the must usual punctuation, though. Separating into two sentences, or e.g. "I am unwell and hence unable to work" wwould be common and acceptable I think. N.B. "hence" is quite a formal word, so might not be used to describe "boring" things like having a tummy ache. –  Neil Coffey Apr 1 '11 at 14:44
    
I wasn't sure about the semicolon. Since "hence" is more formal, as you say, then I suppose the semicolon usage is considered to be formal as well? –  Alenanno Apr 1 '11 at 15:28
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The semicolon is actually a very appropriate choice here. Its role is to separate two clauses that have a tight logical coupling. The form 'statement;consequence' is a great example of when a semicolon is a good choice. That said, many people are unfamiliar with the semicolon and, as a result, it can add an air of formality to your writing, simply because you happen to know what you're doing when it comes to punctuation. –  Dancrumb Apr 5 '11 at 14:21
    
Thanks for the comment, Dancrumb. Punctuation, unfortunately, is kind of underestimated nowadays and not only with English. –  Alenanno Apr 5 '11 at 17:38

protected by Will Hunting Mar 22 '12 at 13:31

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