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My question is, is the use of the word "hence", used in it's most common sense as an alternative to "therefore", strictly acceptable in English usage in the following example:

I like bananas, hence why I eat them.

I see a lot of people using the word "why" after the word "hence", and I have always considered it, at the very least, inefficient use of English. Happy to find out other views. Many thanks for all comments.

4 Answers 4

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It appears that this construct used to be a lot more popular in the 1800s and continues to be used today. Going by Ngrams:

Google ngram for "hence why"

Excerpts: Barbara Heyman, 2012:

I looked at it later in 1922 with the idea of arranging it for violin, cello, and piano. Hence why we still call it the “Trio”.

Thomas A. Blackson, 2011:

The details of his pursuit were so undefined it was difficult to understand how the pursuit was supposed to work and hence why anyone should value it so highly.

Marcel Fafchamps, 2004

This may explain why the threat of stigmatization is largely ineffective against so-called informal sector firms which, as a rule, are not registered — and hence why transactions among informal sector firms remain quite unsophisticated.

In other words, this usage appears to be quite valid.

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  • I appreciate the response. I believe "hence" should be interchangeable with "therefore", in which case the bananas sentence wouldn't make sense but the Blackson and Fafchamps examples would (and the Heyman example wouldn't). Aug 27, 2012 at 12:40
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    @charles.abcam Hence originally meant from here/this point, as thence meant from there/that point. That’s why it can be used in this way.
    – tchrist
    Aug 27, 2012 at 12:56
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    The statistical significance of the NGram points doesn't even rise to the level of a rounding error. Look at the Y axis.
    – Robusto
    Aug 27, 2012 at 14:00
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    It also masks the different polysemes of hence. The Heyman quote could be recast Hence our retaining the original name the “Trio”. (if one allows the use of sentence fragments); the sense of hence here is, as tchrist says, from this point or from this source (AHDEL) or which is why (Huizhe) or this is the reason for. With this sense, Charles needs I like bananas, hence my eating them by the dozen. In calling the hence why string a structure, as Huizhe does, one is getting perilously close to claiming a cohesion that probably isn't there in most cases that are grammatical. Aug 27, 2012 at 14:31
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    @EdwinAshworth There are plenty more meanings of hence than just that. “You have robbed my revenge of sweetness, and now I must go hence in bitterness, in debt to your mercy.” “Hence the excitement of the hobbit-children.” “I counsel that we rest now, and set out hence by night, ...” “For darkness will flow between us, and it may be that we shall not meet again, unless it be far hence upon a road that has no returning.” “The worthies of Bree will be discussing it a hundred years hence.” In only one of those could one conceivably swap in therefore.
    – tchrist
    Aug 27, 2012 at 15:01
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After reading the various replies my mind is still inconclusive, however, the above answer: "incorrect, but nobody cares" seems to fit best.

I have always thought of 'hence' to be a word used in written communications in order to be succinct and formal, so when I hear people using the term 'hence why' in casual spoken conversation it really irritates me for some reason. It is probably due to the fact that the people saying 'hence why' are usually not very well educated people trying to sound important or clever.

Lately, I have even heard journalists and politicians saying 'hence why'. It appears they are using it as a synonymn for 'so' or 'therefore'. I quote this recent example from a political journalist:

"...both parties are free to set their own policies and priorities, hence why this story has been running in the past few days."

Surely the above sentence does not make sense? However, the folowing sentence would make sense:

"...both parties are free to set their own policies and priorities, therefore this story has been running in the past few days."

Although, adding 'why' to 'therefore' does not make sense:

"...both parties are free to set their own policies and priorities, therefore why this story has been running in the past few days."

Alas dear fellows, it is quite infuriating, hence now I must go hence in bitterness, in debt to your mercy.

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  • "Therefore why" being bad doesn't make "hence why" bad. If A and A B are idioms, and C may be used like A, that doesn't mean C B is used to mean A B. // As to your quotation from a journalist: people reading those words when first published would know that the story has been running for a few days, thus raising the question of why it has. The sentence you quote offers new info to explain this existing question. The "why this story...days" is an indirect question, and syntactically it needs the "why".
    – Rosie F
    Jul 31, 2021 at 11:18
  • Understood. In that case the journalist was not using 'hence' to mean 'therefore'. They were using it to meant 'that is' as in 'that's why'. Hence does not mean 'that is' so the journo is still incorrect in my opinion. Aug 2, 2021 at 8:57
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The last two examples could have a comma between the hence and the why. The hence in both case means therefore and it is like saying therefore, why would anyone value. The why in both cases is the beginning of the next phrase and incidental. The first example is indeed a double usage. I wonder if these quotes were found by computer search?

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When you contrast coleopterist's Ngrams research with the answers shared between every other Google result, it appears that "hence why" is a case of "incorrect, but nobody cares" similar to "quadrilogy" (which should use the Greek "tetra-" with the Greek "-logia" to form "tetralogy" but people have been getting it wrong since at least 1865 according to the OED).

Perhaps I haven't read enough older fiction, but my intuition has always agreed with the view that "hence why" is incorrect because it translates to "[that is the reason that] why".

However, my intuition did also lead me into conflict with a more pedantic friend over whether "hence why" is ever valid on technical grounds.

The use my intuition keeps claiming validity for is that "hence why X" makes sense as a short form of "hence my decision to X" (in contrast to "hence X", rendering the decision the primary subject of the clause, rather than the action taken as a result).

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