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I have noticed people sometimes say eg "I nearly dropped my cup then". "Then" sounds wrong to me. I would say "there". Am I just making this up? I dont think of it as location "there" vs time "then" I think "there" is "there, at that specific event..and time"

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  • English hasn't developed adverbs for "space-time" yet. It's only been a century since Einstein, and we're still talking about the Sun rising. Don't hold your breath. – John Lawler Apr 19 at 21:12
  • You provide a reason for preferring there, but you don't explain why then sounds wrong to you. Surely the choice between the two depends on the context: if it is primarily about the temporal setting of the event, then then is appropriate. – jsw29 Apr 20 at 15:55
  • I was listening to someone referring to a near accident when moving a heavy object. He said "you nearly had my finger then". I think it is that "there" to me, in that case, describes the coming together in time and space of events, "you nearly had my finger there!" ...then leaves me floating a bit – Alan Ogilvie Apr 20 at 20:27
  • " there was never a time", "in the Tudor period there was only a small population..." "There are two times each year when we change clocks", "during the Second World War there were times" "there are moments in history" ..."there was snow at six o'clock" – Alan Ogilvie Apr 21 at 9:01
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"Then" is a time-dependent referent. "There" is a location-dependent referent.

Since "past" is also a time-referent, "then" would be correct, for sake of consistency.

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  • If you wanted to make the event both time- and space-dependent you would say "then and there" or even "right then and there" which are both perfectly good English idioms. – BoldBen Apr 20 at 2:34

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