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I use words such as thereof, thereupon, and thereafter relatively often, but I occasionally find myself wanting to use this construction with different prepositions. Most times it's therefor, which I find is used mostly in legal contexts, but what about odder ones such as thereunder, therebefore, or (for the sake of argument) thereamongst?

The only words of this sort I know to be in commonish use are:

  • thereabout
  • thereafter
  • thereat
  • thereby
  • therefrom
  • therein
  • thereof
  • thereon
  • thereto
  • thereupon
  • therewith

I guess what I'm really asking is whether this is a productive construction. I mean, I may sound anywhere between stilted and insane if I overuse it, but I'm more concerned with whether it's considered correct. Thoughts appreciated, references doubly so.

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2 Answers 2

up vote 7 down vote accepted

What a neat, thoughtful question. In my writings, I've only ever used therefore, thereby, and therein (with the expression "Therein lies the problem.") I think it's the same for many other average Joes :) I wouldn't consider someone who employs the other ones when talking "insane," just quite quaint (in a good way).

Google Ngram colourfully conveys that, while most its siblings have been steadily obsolescing for the past three centuries, thereby stablized to a comfy plateau in the mid-19th century and only in the last decade does it show a minimal amount of decline.
Thereof used to be quite a favour among writers but is now even less common than thereto, which itself is pretty rare but had seen a resurgence in use in the '50s.

Ngram graph showing the trends of "there-" words

It's only logical to compare this cohort to their vis-à-vis: The "here-" adverbs. Even the most popular hereafter has always been much less prevalent than even thereof. (Note the extra zero to right of the decimal point on the y-axis.) The Here Family is even more formal and archaic, as a whole, than the Theres.

Ngram graph showing the trends of "here-" words

So you were right-on in your assumptions. Last productive since centuries ago, (t)here + prep. are now very limited constructions. They're once-thriving dynasties that mostly came into existence in between the 9th and 11th centuries, just before Old English began to evolve into Chaucer's Middle English.

The last progenies to the families were therefrom (1250s), hereat (1550s) and herefrom (1590s), which all practically died out a couple of centuries after invented, as people started to slice these concise words into separate and more flexible units or simply opted for other prepositions altogether, as indicated by the Oxford Engl. Dict. Moribound, they survive on linguistic respirators such as officialese and legalisms.

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Excellent answer. For the sake of the survival of this family of words, I will dare to sound quaint! –  Jon Purdy Jan 3 '11 at 22:59

You can also say "therebefore."

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OP did say therebefore already, see the question. :) –  Kris May 18 '13 at 5:14

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