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mzehnich's avatar

What is the proper use of "thereby" when involving a copula?

Asked by mzehnich (277points) February 15th, 2010

I am worried about splitting up linking verbs when using “thereby” or “therefore”. I am probably being hung up on the “by” in thereby, however.

“It would thereby be worthwhile” – sounds fine, but splits up “would be”

“It would be thereby worthwhile” – sounds worse, but does not split up the copula “would be”

Which one would be more grammatically correct? Furthermore, is it considered in bad taste to even use the word in such a sentence, given it is entirely inessential?

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19 Answers

aphilotus's avatar

I never use “thereby”, but I do use “therefore”, and use it along the lines of “It would, therefore, be worthwhile.” You can also get away with “then”, as in “That, then, is what we shall do.”

Vunessuh's avatar

I don’t know. Therefore sounds more accurate in both sentences.
Where’s Gailcalled when we need her?

morphail's avatar

There is nothing wrong with splitting up a modal and a verb. But I would use “therefore” in these sentences. Put it wherever sounds best, and don’t worry about splitting up words.

CyanoticWasp's avatar

I might use “thereby” in the sense of “location” (similar to “thereabout”):
It was on the road, or somewhere thereabout. (No, not “It was thereby the side of the road.”)

I might also use it in the sense of a “via”, as in:
“He accomplished the task quickly, thereby saving himself time for lunch.”

In the sense of the examples given, I would definitely stick to “therefore”:
“It was the best of times, therefore it was also the worst of times.”

aphilotus's avatar

Also, thereby is really only used to imply direct causation of the second action by the first, which is why nobody ever uses it.

As in “He kicked the door down, and thereby (IE, through that action) entered the building.”

As opposed to “The door was locked, and therefore needed a swift kick to oblige it to open.”

Cruiser's avatar

I would write it….thereby it would be worthwhile….but don’t quote me I almost failed English in college! lol!

dpworkin's avatar

Where are you that the grammar is so very prescriptive? At any rate, @aphilotus has nailed the distinction between thereby and therefore, and thereby he received a GA.

gailcalled's avatar

Skip them both and use “thus,” unless you are an attorney and want to confuse your clients.

“Copula” is a new word for me and one I plan never to use (or “to never use.”)

I would cringe at “Thereby it would be worthwhile.”

mzehnich's avatar

I think @morphail had the right of it being a modal verb rather than a copula (“to be” verb) anyway.

I did not know “thereby” was such a hated word! I use it fairly often, but I have been trying to get much more strict about my grammar and usage lately; especially in efficiency and trimming the fat out of sentences. Given this is more of a style matter than a black and white grammar problem, I figured I would poll you guys. My first time here as well, you guys have been great!

gailcalled's avatar

Spoken by Jacques in As You Like It

‘Tis but an hour ago since it was nine,
And after one hour more ‘twill be eleven;
And so, from hour to hour, we ripe and ripe,
And then, from hour to hour, we rot and rot;
And thereby hangs a tale.

janbb's avatar

A copula guys broke into my house, thereby ruining my night. Fuggedaboutit!

gailcalled's avatar

Wait for the movie, directed by Francis Ford Copula. Therefore, it should be pretty good.

Jeruba's avatar

“Therefore” means “because of this.” “Thereby” means “by means of this.” (And “thus” means “in this manner or way.”)

His mother was still living; therefore he was not an orphan.
He called his mother as a witness for his character, thereby revealing that he was not indeed an orphan.
His mother appeared in the courtroom, thus giving the lie to his testimony that he was an orphan.

nebule's avatar

don’t ya just love Jeruba…I was waiting, following in the wings for her wisdom :-)

editingdiva's avatar

If you feel a transitional word is needed for flow, then I suggest you place a semicolon after your persuasive fact and format it this way:
...; therefore, it would be worthwhile…

stardust's avatar

Therefore for sure. When I hear/see ill use of grammar, I cry inside
@morphail is right

gailcalled's avatar

It’s not grammar; it’s vocabulary or usage.

Thus we struggle on, against the tide. (Who did say that?)

janbb's avatar

“So we beat on, boats against the current, born back ceaselessly into the past”? F.Scott Fitzgerald

gailcalled's avatar

@janbb: So that’s why I didn’t find it at the end of “Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man”?

It’s Gatsby, right. And it’s exactly what I wanted. My voice is full of money as I type.

Thank you.

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