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First of all, I understand that then cannot be used as a conjunction with simply a comma (lacking a semicolon or start of new sentence) to connect two independent clauses and that a semicolon or a FANBOYS conjunction must be used with it for that to work. However, my question is: what if it's connecting a dependent clause? To be more specific, one that has to deal with sequence. I will list a few examples below:

I went to the store then home.

I'm going to cook the steak on the stove, then finish it off on the skillet.

Bob opened the door, then shut it right back.

Tracy and Jill came out first, then Brittany.

We ate all of our food, then grabbed some dessert.

Dictionary.com and a few other places state that it can be used in instances like some of those. However, I don't know if I trust that or not. I tend to follow rules in between traditional and modern, but in some cases, I think that they should always be followed. Therefore, I need know, in the strictest of terms, what the rules are regarding then.

I have seen the link of "Than vs then", and while it does provide some points, it does not fully explain the use of then with a dependent clause. The Op in that thread uses two independent clause, which is what I already stated was not allowed.

marked as duplicate by Edwin Ashworth, David, Davo, Skooba, Roaring Fish Sep 21 '17 at 7:17

This question has been asked before and already has an answer. If those answers do not fully address your question, please ask a new question.

  • Is what comes after "then" not dependent? – Allex Kramer Sep 14 '17 at 15:18
  • What is a FANBOYS conjunction? – Azor Ahai Sep 14 '17 at 15:35
  • 'I'm going to cook the steak on the stove, then finish it off on the skillet.' is a deleted form of 'I'm going to cook the steak on the stove,/; then I'm going to finish it off on the skillet.' // 'I understand that then cannot be used as a conjunction to connect two independent clauses' begs the question. – Edwin Ashworth Sep 14 '17 at 15:58
  • @EdwinAshworth I guess I didn't exactly word that the right way. I meant that it can't be used without the start of a new sentence or semicolon, to link independent clauses. – Allex Kramer Sep 14 '17 at 19:14
  • Dictionary.com gives the example 'We ate, then we started home.' CED gives the example 'He opened the door, then the lights came on and everybody shouted, "Happy Birthday".' AHD has a usage note discussing this sort of usage, and comes down on the side of acceptability. // The deleted forms are just as acceptable (if 'shut it right back' is grammatical). – Edwin Ashworth Sep 14 '17 at 23:08

I think the comment about "and then" is right on point.

Your examples all contain one fully developed independent clause and a second truncated clause.

"Tracy and Jill came out first, then Brittany" is an abbreviation of either

"Tracy and Jill came out first; then Brittany came out" or

"Tracy and Jill came out first, and then Brittany came out."

If you speak the first sentence, you will notice a pause before "then Brittany." Consequently, you need some form of punctuation to reflect that natural pause. The two unabbreviated versions suggest two different punctuation marks, namely the comma and the semicolon.

My opinion is that the semicolon looks odd because you are not joining two complete independent clauses. Thus, you should make a minimal separation through a comma because part of the first complete clause is required to make sense of the abbreviated second clause.

In short, I would write "I went to the store, then home" because you need to refer back to "I went" to make sense of "home," an otherwise isolated noun.

  • Is that correct though? I have trying to see if it is true that "then" cannot be used in that way. I was told I had to have an "and" there. I went to the store and then home. – Allex Kramer Sep 14 '17 at 20:56
  • @Alex Kramer I was told Father Christmas existed. The credentials of instructors (and sometimes their seriousness) need to be examined, and this information needs to be added on ELU. – Edwin Ashworth Sep 14 '17 at 23:09

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