Lindsay McMahon
"The English Adventurer"
Michelle Kaplan
"The New York Radio Girl"

Have you heard the word “then” used in English in a variety of different ways?

Look at this example and notice that the word “then” has a slightly different use here.

Lindsay: “Recording will take a long time today, Michelle. We are recording 20 episodes!”

Michelle: “Oh wow. Ok, I’ll get comfortable then!”

As you can see and you’ve probably heard, “then” is a versatile word in English that can be used in a variety of different ways.

Today we’re looking at how this word can be used as a way of connecting to the person you are talking to and show that you’re really paying attention.

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Today we have a question about the word “then” that may be something that you have thought about too.

Hello Lindsay and Michelle,

How are you? Hope all is well with you both! I’ve been listening to your podcast for awhile now. I learn a lot, and I had a question come up. Sometimes I hear native speakers put the word “then” at the end of a sentence.

For example, they may say something like “Come on then!” I’ve heard things like “Good luck then.” I don’t know how to use “then” to make me sound like a native English speaker in conversation.

Could you please explain this to me? I want to understand how this works, and also how I can use it in conversation.

Thank you for your help!

Vera

A Little Background

This is a great question, and it may remind you of the word “though” in conversation.

We did an episode on this before that you’ll want to check out. AEE 1417: This Is Real English Though

So you can see that there are words like this which may have various uses.

“Then” is a word that is often overlooked, particularly because it’s not a flashy vocabulary word!

We want to talk about it though because “then” has a place in conversation, and it can be used in a variety of ways.

We are going to focus on one use of the word “then” at the end of a sentence today.

This is a very common use for it, and it’s also the one that our listener brought up.

We can do other versions of how you use the word then, and we will touch on this a bit today as well.

How Does This Work?

We know that there are a variety of different meanings for this word, but let’s look at this.

The first is what our listener gave examples of such as “Come on, then.” Or “Good luck, then.”

This tends to be used to mean “in that case.”

So if you look at just these two examples, you might be more likely to hear “then” used with good luck more than come on.

This is where you really want to listen in conversation to see how something like “then” is being used in conversation.

Sometimes it may be a word that is just tagged onto a phrase or may feel like a good proper ending.

You obviously need some context to understand the exact meaning, and this is where your listening skills can really come in handy.

In the example from our listener, you can envision how this might have been used in the following example role play.

Lindsay: “I’m going to the gym today.”

Michelle: “Oh good have fun.”

Lindsay: “I haven’t been in 2 years!”

Michelle”: Oh man. Good luck, then!”

In the example, Michelle could have just said good luck and the sentence would have worked just fine.

What does using the word “then” add here?

It sounds a bit more spunky, and it’s saying good luck in that case.

In this instance, in that case is looking specifically at you going to the gym for the first time in two years.

This is a big deal and so adding then helps to drive that point home.

It would have been fine to just say good luck, but adding “then” helps to connect to what was just said.

It shows that you heard what was said, and that you are reacting accordingly.

It’s like that one little extra punch to really connect through the sentence and ensure that the person you are talking to knows that you are truly listening.

Looking At Some Examples

There are a variety of different ways that this word can be used.

You see that “then” can add some emphasis and a deeper connection to the person that you are talking to.

It shows that you are really listening, and therefore reacting to what they are saying in your own way.

Here are a few examples of how this can work through mini role plays, and you will begin to see what adding “then” can do in a conversation.

Michelle: “I am craving pasta.”

Lindsay: “Ok, let’s make some tonight, then.”

Lindsay: “My dog is getting restless.”

Michelle: “Let’s go outside, then. He probably wants some fresh air!”

Michelle: “I am not in the mood for dinner. I ate cake with some coworkers an hour ago.”

Lindsay: “Wow, you must be stuffed then!” In this example, the waiter just asked what we will have to eat.

Lindsay: “I think I’ll have the soup.” Michelle: “Great. Make it two, then.”

Lindsay: “Actually, do you want to just share a big one, then? “

Michelle: “Yes, we can also get an appetizer, then.”

You can also use “then” at the beginning of a sentence to get the point across.

It works just as well in these examples and helps to establish that connection to what the other person is saying.

“I’m craving pasta.”

“Then let’s make some tonight.”

“My dog is getting restless.”

“Then let’s go outside.”

You could even put it in the middle of a sentence and it can work.

That shows just how versatile the word “then” is, and how you can use it in a variety of different ways.

Lindsay: “I am exhausted.”

Michelle: “Let’s go home then and watch a movie.”

A Nice Accent

When you think of using “then” in this context, it’s really more of an added word.

It helps to give a good accent or emphasis, and shows that you are really listening to the person you are talking to.

This shows a deeper connection to the conversation, and it will indirectly help the listener to feel that.

It doesn’t give us too much more information, but it is very important.

This is one of those words that can work very well in the right context.

It shows that you are connected, and that you are thinking of the next steps and how it connects to the other steps or parts of the conversation.

It can sound friendly such as in the example of “come along then.”

It may not always have a specific meaning, but it definitely has its own place and can be a great addition to your conversation.

Takeaway

The word “then” is very useful, and as you can see it can be used in a variety of ways.

Listen for the context, and this is a great way to hear how a conversation such as this can work.

It has many meanings, but today we focused on one very important use today that is so much more than a word.

This use shows that you are listening, it shows you want to connect, and it shows you want things to flow in your conversation.

Try it today, and see how this one word can add a lot to conversation.

If you have any questions, please leave them below in the comments section.

We’ll get back to you as soon as we can.

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