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Is It Correct to Say “Since Then”?

We often need to talk about events that happened in the past and continue to have an impact in some way on the present. In these cases, we might wonder what the best wording is. Would it be correct to say “since then”?

It is correct to say “since then” when we want to talk about something that occurred in the past and still has relevance today. We also use it to define a specific point in the past and events that have happened until the current time. We usually use “since then” in the present perfect tense with the “have.”

This article will explain ways we can use “since then,” as well as examples in sentences. We will also explore synonyms for this phrase. In addition, we will look at other ways we use “since then” to help understand the correct usage of the term, along with other related phrases and idioms.

What Does “Since Then” Mean?

“Since then” means “within that time”. “Since then” refers to the time between a moment in the past and the current period, especially where the past event impacts the current time somehow.

Let’s look at a few examples to help us understand this better. 

  • Amy moved to the area in 2002 and has worked in the same company since then.
  • Jeff had an accident some time ago. Since then, he has been a cautious driver.

In the first sentence, we are letting the reader know that Amy first moved to the area twenty years ago, and second, she has been working with the same company since that time. 

In the second sentence, we tell the reader that Jeff is now a very cautious driver and has become so from the point he had the accident.

“Since” Meaning and History

We use the word “since” in various ways: as a preposition, conjunction, and adverb. “Since” can refer to something starting at a particular point in the past and continuing in the present.

Depending on usage, it can refer to events that happened at some time between a past moment and now. As a subordinating conjunction, it helps connect clauses and explain why in other scenarios (source).

“Since” finds its origins in the Old English word sithen, meaning “afterward” or “from the time when,” leading to its additional meaning of “as a consequence.” The spelling “since” replaced the older spelling “synnes” in the 16th century. 

BecauseI won’t join you for dinner tonight since I have a prior engagement.
At some point after a past moment or eventThe robbery was blamed on the guard, who has since quit his position.
From some point in the past till nowJune has wanted to be a writer since high school. 

How Do You Use “Since Then”?

We can use the phrase “since then” at the beginning, middle, or end of a sentence where we need to talk about past events and their continuing impact today. We use the present perfect tense with the phrase “since then.”

Remember that it’s important to add context to your sentence to ensure it makes sense to the reader. Let us consider the sentence without context:

  • I haven’t eaten a burrito since then

As you can see, without specifying a time frame that explains when “then” was or a reason as to why I have not eaten a burrito, the above sentence will confuse the reader. However, adding a time frame and/or reason makes sense. Consider the sentences below that illustrate this.

  • I became sick after eating a burrito last May, and I haven’t eaten another since then.
  • I became sick after eating a burrito last May. Since then, I haven’t eaten another.

In many cases, skipping the “then” is okay because it will still retain its meaning as it is implied: 

  • Naomi broke the high school record in 2004. She hasn’t looked back since [then]. 

You could also write the above sentence like this:

  • Naomi hasn’t looked back since she broke her high school records in 2004. 

Is it Grammatically Correct to Say “Since Then”?

As you can see in the examples from the previous section, it is grammatically correct to say “since then” in various sentence locations. 

Note that we use the perfect verb form “have/has” or “have been/has been” with the phrase “since then” to denote the present-day impact of a past event. We must use the present perfect or present perfect continuous tenses with the phrase “since then” because it indicates an event that began in the past and has continued to the present.

“Since then” could either suggest something you have repeated several times since the first occurrence or indicate a continuity since a past event or moment.

For example:

  • I first visited the SFMOMA in 2010, and I think I have been there five times since then.
  • He moved to the Greater Bay Area when he was five and has lived here since then.

In What Context Can You Use “Since Then”?

We often use “since then” when recounting something that has already happened. In conversations, we often need to talk about things or events that have happened after an event or significant moment in the past and continue to have relevance today.

For example, if you met a colleague from a previous job after many years, you could say something like: 

  • I quit the company after you left. Since then, I have worked at two different NGOs.

Or maybe it is a friend from school inquiring about familiar friends he has not been in touch with. You could tell him that: 

  • Ben and Sue married in 2005. They have been traveling and blogging since then.

Using “Since Then” in a Full Sentence

You can use “since then” within a complete sentence in a few different ways. Native English speakers use it at the start, the middle, or the end of a sentence.

Let us look at each of these usages:

  • Kevin stopped eating sugar last year, and since then, he has lost twenty pounds.
  • Kevin stopped eating sugar last year and has lost twenty pounds since then.
  • Kevin stopped eating sugar last year. Since then, he has lost twenty pounds.

When Can You Use “Since Then”?

You can use “since then” any time you want to talk about an event that happened in the past and has an impact even today. You can also use it when you want to talk about events that happened from a point in the past till now. Most often, you will use “since then” in casual conversations as well as in informal writing.

For example, let us consider the initial event below.

  • Julie won first place in a writing contest in high school.

Let us now look at a few probable events or things in Julie’s life since that first place achievement.

  • She has written ten novels since then!
  • She has not written anything at all since then
  • She has won a zillion writing awards since then!

Each of the above sentences presents readers a different view of Julie’s life from when she won the writing contest.

While her life could have taken any turn, readers understand from “since then” that each outcome results from that singular event in the past.

When Not to Use “Since Then”

While “since then” is not necessarily informal, avoid using it in formal or professional situations if other alternate options will sound and work better. Also, don’t use “since then” if the action you describe is not continuing in the present.

For instance, we can use phrases like “from then on” or “after that” with the simple past tense to point out the consequences of something in the past to a later point (also in the past). So avoid using “since then” for these scenarios, and instead use one of these two phrases.

Note that the phrase “since then” helps focus attention on a point or event in the past. So do not use “since then” when the focus is on the present rather than the past event. The following section provides an alternative for it with examples (source).

You should also not use “since-then” when you want to use a conditional statement. “If  – then” is a better option in those cases. Look at the below sentences to understand this better.

  • If you see Emily at the park, then ask her to come home. (correct)
  • Since you will see Emily at the park, then ask her to come home. (incorrect)
  • Since you will see Emily at the park, can you ask her to come home? (correct)

Also, note that the implication and meaning are different in the above sentences. The first sentence implies that if and only if I see Emily at the park, I should ask her to come home, else I do not need to do anything.

The second sentence is incorrect, while the third sentence assumes that I will see Emily at the park anyway, so please ask her to come home.

What Can You Use Instead of “Since Then”?

Although “since then” is a helpful phrase when we need to describe an event or a point in the past, it’s useful to know other ways to express the same thing. Let’s consider a few alternate options. 

AlternativeExample Sentence
From then on – popular alternativeLucy fell last April and suffered headaches from then on.
From that point forward – appropriate for formal or professional useSales of her books only increased from that point forward.
Ever since – helps place focus on the events or period since the past eventWhen I was six, a dog bit me, and I have been terrified of them ever since.
After that – used when things start and end in the pastWhen I was six, a dog bit me. I was terrified of them after that.

Phrases and Idioms

In English, we use phrases and idioms daily without realizing it, which is why it is helpful to understand what they are. A phrase is a group of words we use as a unit in the sentence (source). An idiom, on the other hand, is a saying whose overall meaning is different from the literal meanings of the words (source).

Image by Sydney Rae via Unsplash

Some common phrases include “pretty good,” “the same as always,” and “never been better” in response to a “how are you” query. Likewise, we use the phrase “we’ll have ….” followed by the items on a menu for ordering in a restaurant.

Inversely, when we put the two words together to form “since then,” we cannot apply the individual definitions for “since” and “then” to the phrase because “since then” creates an idiom of time that has its own meaning.

Learning and using expressions in any language often requires local knowledge of the language, but they are fun. Idioms help show readers and listeners your expertise in the language.

Below are some popular idioms:

IdiomMeaningExample sentence
Cool as a cucumberCalmJerry is always as cool as a cucumber.
On cloud nineThrilled, very happyJulie got a promotion last week. She has been on cloud nine since then.
Once in a blue moonVery rarelyEmma visits her parents once in a blue moon.

As you can see, we cannot literally translate an idiom. The more English you hear and read, the easier you will understand it.

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To better understand the differences between phrases and idioms, check out our article Is It Correct to Say, “The Day Before Yesterday”?

Final Thoughts

You might have had questions about how to use the phrase “since then” when you first started reading this article. But you have certainly learned a lot since then. Now you know how, when, and where to use “since then,” as well as alternatives to this phrase.

You also know that you can use “since” without “then” while retaining the meaning of the phrase. Moreover, you can use “since” by itself as a conjunction to replace “because.”  “Since then” is just one of the many phrases you can use to indicate a past event with relevance or impact now.