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Do I use a comma before "then" in this example?

Joe said, "If she plans on going, I won't be there, then."

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    Both alternatives are fine. But they have different meanings. – Edwin Ashworth Jan 17 '15 at 16:10
  • That is what I am unsure of. What's the difference with and without the comma? – whippoorwill Jan 17 '15 at 16:13
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    Joe said, "If she plans on going, I won't be there then." = Joe said, "If she plans on going, I won't be there when she is." (temporal adverb) // Joe said, "If she plans on going, I won't be there, then." = Joe said, "In that case, if she plans on going, I won't be there." (pragmatic marker (giving reason: what Joe has just learnt)) – Edwin Ashworth Jan 17 '15 at 16:22
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She is going to that party? I won't be there, then.

This means I will not be at the party, because she's going (and I have no wish to meet her).
This then is part of an if, then construction, where the if is suppressed: if she's going, then I am not going.

She is going to the party? I won't be there then.

This means that I will not be present at that time.

This then is simply temporal, and the sentence is similar to I won't be there tonight.

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By adding a comma, the "then" relates to the condition in the first part of the sentence.

On the other hand - if there's no comma, then this whole sentence doesn't make much sense because the "then" would relate to an exact point in time when Joe would not be there.

The comma version suits better.

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