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This is one of those colloquialisms that doesn't seem to translate to a complete sentence, but how would you properly punctuate and/or correct the following sentence?

I'd like you to keep working, but if you want to quit, then fine.

My interest is on the last phrase "then fine" which I've heard before but can't seem to figure out how to write it down properly. Is it "then fine" or "then, fine" or something else entirely?

What kind of grammatical function is it?

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...I always thought "then fine" was short for "then that's fine." Too close to bedtime to do any checking, though. – kitukwfyer Apr 18 '11 at 2:29
up vote 5 down vote accepted

I believe this is a contraction of

... then it is fine with me.


... then it is fine by me.

and I don't think it requires any punctuation at all. It is an adjective that may be compared with "good" and "okay" in the same kind of construction:

If you want to go out, then okay.

If you want to go out, then good.

One of the meanings of fine, according to NOAD:

• used to express one's agreement with or acquiescence to something : anything you want is fine by me, Linda | he said such a solution would be fine.

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Maybe with a colon? Because it is like

I'd like you to keep working, but if you want to quit, then my answer is: 'Fine'.

shortened to

I'd like you to keep working, but if you want to quit, then: fine.

It's hard to put colloquialisms into written English. They often look awkward.

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Perhaps "then fine" communicates rancor, but "then, fine" is a more tolerant or accommodating response.

The sentence works without the "then", as, I believe, any if-then construction might. At least in informal communication.

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