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Have you ever heard the famous line “I think, therefore I am” by René Descartes? We all have! But what does therefore mean, and how should you use it? Therefore is a transition word that presents a cause and effect between independent clauses. 

Keep reading to learn how to use therefore with the correct intent and punctuation in your writing.  

Use the conjunctive adverb therefore to show cause and effect and improve your sentence flow. You may also use it to substitute transition words with the same meaning, like “as a result” and “thus.” For example, “It snowed today. Therefore, I was late for work.”

Therefore Punctuation Rules

There are two ways to punctuate therefore. First, use a comma when the sentence starts with therefore—for example:

  • Incorrect: The players were my heroes, therefore, my dad was my hero because he was the coach. (This is a run-on sentence).
  • Correct: The players were my heroes. Therefore, my dad was my hero because he was the coach.

A semicolon is also a proper way to punctuate therefore—for example:

  • The players were my heroes; therefore, my dad was my hero because he was the coach.

Also, there are instances where you don’t need to punctuate. Add a conjunction along with therefore to connect two independent clauses—for example:

  • The players were my heroes, and therefore my dad was my hero because he was the coach.

A punctuation mark is also unnecessary when therefore is used as an adverb—for example:

The roads in Amsterdam are more vacant and therefore the cab drivers can speed and manoeuvre along more easily. [Calgary Herald]

The 14th Century: First Known Use Of Therefore

Therefore was first used in the 14th century. It comes from the Old English word þærfore. Therfor has been used since the 1800s to mean “for that” or “by reason of that.” Therefore is also used to mean “in consequence of that.”

Examples Of Using Therefore In The Middle Of A Sentence

Cameron’s under pressure from the Tory right for being a softie and, therefore, promised tougher action on the tabloid bad guys. [Guardian]

So, they discuss how they can position him to serve the maximum time, therefore keeping him off the streets in the future. [New York Daily News]

Jonah was bawling his eyes out. Therefore, he may be hurting.

My best friend is the most hardworking; therefore, he got the promotion.

What Can I Use Instead Of Therefore?

Below is a list of synonyms for therefore.

  • Accordingly.
  • Thus.
  • Consequently.
  • Wherefore.
  • Ergo.
  • Then.
  • Hence.
  • So.
  • As a result.

Statistics for Therefore

The use of therefore started to rise in the 1800s and peaked in 1814 at 0.053%. It has been falling steadily since, with only a 0.013% in 2019. 

therefore usage

Despite the decline in the use of therefore, it remains more widely used than as a result, accordingly, ergo, and consequently

therefore vs as a result vs accoringly vs consequently vs ergo

Therefore in a Nutshell

When Rene Descartes said, “I think, therefore I am,” he meant that one’s ability to think leads to the acknowledgment of their existence. Therefore, the word therefore indicates that something occurs because of something else. 

Now, do you feel comfortable using and punctuating therefore in sentences? When using the transition word, always include a comma, semicolon, or no punctuation if it’s used as an adverb.

You might also be interested in the difference between therefore and therefor.