Do these two expressions mean the same or are they used in different contexts? I wrote "Since then" in an essay for my English teacher but she wrote me "from then on" instead. I wanted to say that two children have lived alone since the moment when their parents died, so I wrote

Since then, the two children lived alone...

And my teacher corrected it to

From then on, the two children lived alone...

Thanks in advance!

I'm afraid I'm going to have to disagree with LightMikE.

The difference between "since then" and "from then on" is one of aspect (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grammatical_aspect).

"Since then" is spoken about things that are still going on. So it would be correct to write

Since then, the two children have lived alone [implying and today they still do].

But the sentence you have, since it's about something that happened in the past but is no longer relevant, requires "from then on."

Similarly, "From then on" is spoken about things that are no longer going on. So it's correct to write

From then on, the two children lived alone [implying but today they don't].

but it would be incorrect to write

From then on, the two children have lived alone.

Since I don't know whether the two children no longer live alone because they live with other people or because they're dead, it might be clearer to show first-person examples. So these would be correct:

When I was a kid, I ate some disgusting French fries. Since then I've hated French fries, which is why I don't ever order them at restaurants.

When I was a kid, I ate some disgusting French fries. From then on I hated French fries, until my mother made me try some a few years later, and now I love them again.

But to switch "since then" and "from then on" in the above sentences would make them incorrect.

  • That IS true. I didn't consider that – LightMikeE Mar 1 '15 at 5:14

The two of them generally mean the same thing, and can quite correctly be used interchangeably. So:

Since then, the two children lived alone...

Means the exact same as:

From then on, the two children lived alone...

But, there is a very slight difference here. Since then can mean that the action happened at some point in time after the event. I.E, at some point after their parents died, they started living alone. From then on does not give that kind of meaning that from the very moment, they lived alone.

However, there is a possibility, that in certain situations, from then on can be taken to mean from that moment until another, when used along with other words. For example:

From then on until the day they (did something), the two children live alone...

This sentence style isn't often used when using since then, because since then is often understood as from one moment until the present. However this is ambiguous, since one can still use the word until to give the same sense.

Since then, until the day they (did something), the two children live alone...

In conclusion, if you meant that they lived alone from the very moment their parents died, from then on is slightly more correct.

  • "Since then means that the action happened at some point in time after the event." Not so! "Since then" means "from that moment on." Period. – Steven Littman Feb 28 '15 at 12:50
  • I meant that it COULD mean so. Which is perfectly true. – LightMikeE Feb 28 '15 at 12:55
  • @Steven Littman: Not so. "I was born in England and never traveled abroad once until I married at 25, but since then I've lived and worked on all five continents". That would be a perfectly valid statement even if I didn't actually take my first overseas position until several years after I married. Since then can mean either from that time (then) on, or at some point after that time. – FumbleFingers Feb 28 '15 at 13:56
  • @Fumble Fingers. Your example doesn't contradict what I said. You're saying you've lived on five continents since then. What you didn't do until some time after the wedding was start traveling. – Steven Littman Mar 1 '15 at 2:40
  • @StevenLittman Exactly, but it does not necessarily mean that he started living on the different continents as soon as he married, but rather at some point after he did. – LightMikeE Mar 1 '15 at 5:13

protected by tchrist Feb 5 '16 at 10:25

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