The word "hence" is widely used in English writings. However, if the people who use the word in their texts and scripts were asked to define or describe the word, they would invariably stutter. Not to mention, these are people likely to use the word in their sentences incorrectly.
To properly use the word "hence" in a sentence, make sure you are not interpreting it for a conjunction or coordinating conjunction. Because doing so will result in you using commas (,) around it incorrectly. "Hence" can have parenthetical commas, a semi-colon, or even a conjunction before it.
Keep reading to learn in-depth the meaning of the adverb "hence", how it compares to other words closer to it in meaning and usage, and lots more.
Hence – Definition
The word "hence" is an adverb – just like "therefore" and "thus". It roughly means "from this". Contrary to what some might believe, the term is not a conjunction. However, "hence" could be termed a "conjunctive adverb" as it is used to indicate a causal relationship between a couple of clauses in a statement.
The adverb "hence" is part of the triad of words – "hence", "thence", and "whence". But based on the sentence or the context in which it's used, it could mean another thing altogether. It basically relates to "where" – point in time, or position. It denotes "what" or "from where", or "what" or "to where".
How To Properly Use "Hence" In A Sentence
The adverb "hence" is a fairly versatile word. Here are example sentences demonstrating the varied ways in which it could be incorporated in different sentences:
- "These bags are made by hand and, hence, quite expensive." In this sentence, "hence" could be replaced with "consequently", "therefore", "which is why", etc.
- "A year hence she won't be here." Replace "hence" with "later", "afterward", after", "from now on", etc. and the sentence would still be correct grammatically.
However, "hence" cannot do one thing – merge two independent clauses. "Hence" is an adverb that helps transition between two ideas, or it demonstrates how the two are related. Because "hence" is not a conjunction, it can be immediately preceded by "and". Generally, two conjunctions do not appear successively in a sentence.
The word "hence" can be used to replace a phrase, such as "which is why" or "which leads to", in sentences for succinctness or more effective communication. When used to replace the above word(s), "hence" is mostly separated by a comma from the remainder of the sentence. For example:
- Our servers were down, hence the delayed response.
- The chemicals make the rain acidic, hence the usage of the phrase "acid rain".
The word "hence" has multiple meanings, and it could, therefore, be used to substitute a range of other phrases, which include:
- for this reason
- from now
- from this source
- from this place
- from that time
Using A Comma With "Hence"
Like its meaning and general usage in sentences, there is also no standard rule on using commas with "hence". Generally, "hence" has a comma before it. For instance:
- She isn't feeling well, hence she won't be working tomorrow.
If it immediately follows a "semicolon" instead of a comma, it will have one right after it. For example:
- The diner didn't like the food; hence, the chef offered to cook him a replacement.
When "hence" begins a sentence, it has a comma after it. Talking about opening a sentence with "hence", the sentence can come only if there's a cause before it.
There are also sentences that have no commas anywhere near "hence".
Generally, the structure of a sentence clearly indicates whether it should have a comma with "hence", like the sentences above. However, there are instances where comma usage with "hence" may not be very apparent.
To clear such confusion, read the sentence aloud (or in your head) and figure out if there's a pause that must be stressed upon with a comma. If a pause seems natural, use the punctuation mark. If there doesn't sound like a temporary break in the sentence's flow or you do not sense a natural rise in the pitch of your voice, skip the comma.
Contrary to general perception, English grammar books do not dictate the use of commas in writing as a comma denotes a specific intonation. If you are likely to use that particular intonation in speech, use a comma when you write it down. If not, do not use the comma. Long story short, it's critical to listen to what you are writing if you are extremely particular about the commas in your sentences.
Is "Hence" A Formal Word?
The word "hence" is a formal term. In fact, when compared to words most similar to it in meaning and usage – "therefore" and "thus" – it's the most formal. "Therefore" is the most informal of the three. "Hence", however, is more commonly used in written words than in speech. In everyday conversation, the word "so" invariably substitutes "hence".
Difference Between "Hence" And Therefore"
Both "hence" and "therefore" are adverbs and interchangeable, to a certain extent. However, they do not mean the exact same thing or work as synonyms, at least not always. "Therefore" means "because of that or this", or "for this reason". The word is often linked with deductive reasoning. The word helps communicate why a certain thing happened or the reason why a particular thing is so. For example:
- She was early and, therefore, got the front seat.
As mentioned above, "hence" typically denotes "from this". On the other hand, "therefore" means "for that". Despite these fundamental differences in meaning, they could replace each other in most sentences.
Here is a couple of example sentences demonstrating the same:
- The laws are drafted this way; hence/therefore, you must follow them – there is no getting around them.
- The store has no shampoo bottles in stock; therefore/hence, I went with the body lotion.
"Hence" is considered a more archaic or old-fashioned term. The other two adverbs that make the trio it belongs to – "thence" and "whence" – are pretty much obsolete. They sound archaic just like "hither", "thither", and "whither".
The word "hence" is certainly not used in speeches a lot. "Therefore" is also not a widely used term in oral conversations, but it has a much stronger presence in writings compared to "hence". In oral communication, "so" is used mostly.
Difference Between "Hence" And "Thus"
The words "hence" and "thus" are interchangeable by common usage standards. However, grammar rules indicate otherwise. The grammar books state "hence" is used to denote future usage – for instance, "Hence I will do what I said."
The adverb "thus" is used to conclude things or denote the past. For example, "They did not talk to each other; thus, they have not decided on it yet." "Thus" means "in that/this way". It relates to the way in which a certain thing comes about or happens.
Difference Between "Hence" And "So"
"Hence" and "so" have quite similar meanings, but with a slightly different grammar. As mentioned above, "so" is used more informally. "Hence" is quite a formal term, on the contrary.
- She did not have the money to buy the flight tickets, so she canceled her trip.
- She did not have the money to buy the flight tickets; hence, she canceled her trip.
The usage of the semicolon (;) before "hence" not just indicates the formal nature of the word, but it also denotes it isn't a conjunction. Conjunctions usually have a comma or no comma before them, like with "so" in the first sentence.
The sentence with "hence" can also be framed as:
- She did not have the money to buy the flight tickets and, hence, she canceled her trip.
Unlike a conjunctive adverb like "hence", proper conjunctions cannot have parenthetical commas – for example:
- She did not have the money to buy the flight tickets, so, she canceled her trip. (Incorrect)
Since "so" is a conjunction, it also cannot have another conjunction before it.
- She did not have the money to buy the flight tickets and, so, she canceled her trip. (Incorrect)
Example Sentences With The Word "Hence"
Here is a list of sentences incorporating the word "hence":
- The roads were flooded; hence, driving was deemed unsafe.
- Hence, there are benefits to incorporating a loose coupling.
- Hence, such tracheae get laid in only in organs whose longitudinal growth has ceased.
- They were extremely conservative in general; hence, ancient traditions survived amongst them for much longer than any other place.
- Better heat conduction ensures cooler operating temperature inside and, hence, fewer cracks and increased life.
- The nation-state's advantage is its sense of cohesiveness and hence stability.
- It was raining heavily. Hence, she had to head back home.
"Hence" is quite a tricky word to get right, thanks to the number of things it could mean across varied sentences. A lot of the confusion surrounding the word is also due to its "archaic" nature, which has caused its usage in writing to dwindle over a period. In everyday speech, "hence" is pretty much non-existent.
If you're considering using the word "hence" in your manuscripts, make sure you're absolutely sure of its meaning and the overall context in which it's being used. If you're not very confident of the same, do not use the word. Fortunately, there are more than a handful of replacement words or phrases to fall back to.
- How To Properly Use The Word "Circa" In A Sentence
- How to Properly Use The Word "Despite" In A Sentence
- How to Use the Phrase "Deem It Necessary" in a Sentence
Shawn Manaher is the founder and CEO of The Content Authority. He's one part content manager, one part writing ninja organizer, and two parts leader of top content creators. You don't even want to know what he calls pancakes.