And Then… ?

Kellee Kranendonk

Many people are under the impression the words “and” and “then”* are interchangeable, or can be used alongside one another. But they’re not, and shouldn’t be. And is inclusive, then is not. For example:

Schenn skated down the ice and then scored.

“And then” is a common phrase, and most people find nothing wrong with the above example, figuring out that Schenn did two separate activities. However, both words are not needed and, in fact, mean different things, making this sentence quite impossible.

If “and” is something done simultaneously and “then” is something done next, it’s not possible for Schenn to have done these things both at the same time and one after the other. So how should the sentence read?

“Schenn skated down the ice then scored” is the best bet since he would most likely have to approach the opposition’s net before scoring. However, it is possible that he shot while skating thereby “skating down the ice and scoring” simultaneously. So, while Schenn did do two things, how he did them (as one or as one after the other) will determine which word is used.

Grammie knitted and watched hockey. (Yes, my grandmother used to do this).

Keebler chewed gum and walked.

Vonda whistled and worked.

Can you change the word “and” for “while”? If you can, then “and” is probably the word you’re looking for. If you can’t, you probably want to use “then”. Look at the following examples:

Grammie knitted while she watched hockey.

Keebler chewed gum while he walked.

Vonda whistled while she worked.

Note how inserting the word “then” changes the meaning of the sentence:

Grammie knitted then watched hockey.

Keebler chewed gum then walked.

Vonda whisteld then worked.

These people did one thing then they did another, they didn’t do them both at the same time.

More examples:

Geoffrion fell and scored. Geoffrion fell while scoring or scored while falling? Nope. Correct: Geoffrion fell then scored.

Bauer got in the car and went home. Bauer got in the car while going home or went home while getting in the car? Not even close. Correct: Bauer got in the car, then went home.

The Habs won the Stanley cup and drank champagne. The Habs won the Stanley cup while drinking champagne or drank champagne while winning the Stanley cup. Let’s hope not. Correct: The Habs won the Stanley cup then drank champagne.

Is it ever okay to use “and then”? Probably only if you’re a character in the movie, “Dude, Where’s My Car.” However, using the phrase isn’t a serious infraction. Most of the people you talk to probably won’t even notice it. We all use it and don’t notice it. It probably wouldn’t even have any bearing on having a story rejected vs. published as long as the story is well written and polished.


* Please note that “then” means at a later time while “than” is a comparison.

First I shave, then I shower.

The lake water is colder than the pool water.

            I went home, changed, then I went to work.

I changed clothes today faster than I ever have.

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