Should you begin a sentence with ‘therefore’?

When you are writing, the flow can carry you off, and before you know it, you would have made some silly grammar mistakes. Surprisingly, one of the more common mistakes often happens at the start of a sentence.

Writers often ask, “Can I start my sentence with a conjunction, a number, or an adverb?”

Many of us may have grown up with strict rules handed out to us, which is where a lot of the confusion stems from. In this post, we will cover whether or not you can start a sentence with the adverb ‘therefore’. And if you do, will there be dire consequences that follow it?

What exactly is therefore?

With the way that the adverb therefore works, it is more often found in the centre of a sentence as an interrupter with a comma before and after the word. It somehow works similar to a conjunction. However, it does not join two independent clauses together unlike the latter.

Correct: You can, therefore, use the word as an interrupter.

However, therefore is also considered as a conjunctive adverb. Adverbs describe or modify a verb, and this part of speech also does this to adjectives, prepositions and conjunctions. You also have to remember that a semicolon should precede a conjunctive adverb that splits up two independent clauses.

Read more of our blog posts on other conjunctions here.

Run away from run-on sentences

When we do decide to use therefore in place of regular conjunction, we get run-on sentences. Using therefore introduces an independent clause. See the example below:

Incorrect: Most of the dogs were toilet-trained, therefore they were allowed in the house.

This sentence can be fixed in a few different ways. The first option is to place therefore at the start of a second sentence (making sure there is a comma after it).

Correct: Most of the dogs were toilet-trained. Therefore, they were allowed in the house.

If you are still not convinced about using therefore at the start of the sentence, you can use a semicolon and keep the sentence as one:

Correct: Most of the dogs were toilet-trained; therefore, they were allowed in the house.

The final option is to actually use a conjunction to link the two independent clauses in this fashion:

Correct: Most of the dogs were toilet-trained, and therefore they were allowed in the house.

Avoid comma splices

The final aspect when using therefore does relate more to its position in the centre of a word. Often, when writers put therefore in a sentence and confuse it with a coordinating conjunction, this issue arises.

Incorrect: The writer stayed up all night to finish his article, therefore, he met his deadline.

Here, there are commas on either side of therefore, which is incorrect. This is due to the fact that each of the sentences on either side of therefore is complete by themselves. Instead of doing it like this you can start the second sentence with therefore.

Correct: The writer stayed up all night to finish his article. Therefore, he was able to meet his deadline.

Additional tips!

It’s also important not to get confused between the difference of conjunctive adverbs and coordinating conjunctions. It’s more of a problem when the conjunctive adverb pops up in the middle of a sentence when a coordinating conjunction should be used.

Using therefore is perfectly acceptable as long as you partner it with the right punctuation, although it can get a bit confusing as it does have different uses. You can put it in the middle of a sentence with two commas, and it can also be placed at the start of a sentence. You just have to make sure that the preceding sentence is still relevant to the second one.

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