Unless your job involves legal documents, you probably don’t come across the word “therefor” very often. It’s not a misspelling. “Therefor” and “therefore” are homophones; the two words sound the same though they have different meanings. “Therefor” is mostly used in legal contexts. As an example, you might say, “Upon the delivery of such copies, the clerk shall give a receipt therefor.” The word means “for that,” and it’s common in formal writing such as legislation and contracts. Simply place the word postpositively, following the verb phrase it modifies.
On the other hand, you’re much more likely to say “therefore” in a conversation.
Here’s an example sentence:
He didn’t pass the test; therefore, he won’t graduate with his classmates.
In the sentence above, “therefore” acts as a conjunctive adverb, preceded by a semicolon and followed by a comma. The word joins two independent clauses as a sentence connector. “Therefore” can also be used as an interrupter, but the interruption shouldn’t occur between two independent clauses.
He didn’t, therefore, graduate with his peers.
Some style guides recommend omitting the commas when “therefore” doesn’t require a pause in reading. This is a matter of some debate, and the English language has been drifting away from the “overuse” of commas in recent years. You’ll find plenty of English grammar enthusiasts who disagree about this hot topic.
The graduation party was therefore canceled.
Lastly, “therefore” can be used at the beginning of a sentence and followed by a comma. In this situation, the adverb is used as a transition word to show cause-and-effect.
Therefore, he won’t graduate with his classmates.
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Since “therefor” and “therefore” sound so similar, you may wonder whether they come from the same root word. In fact, both words evolved together, and they only developed separate meanings around 1800.
According to the Online Etymology Dictionary, the word “there” originated from the Proto-Germanic word thær and the Proto-Indo-European root tar-. “Fore,” meaning “before,” evolved from the Proto-Germanic word fur and the PIE root per-. The word þærfore, an older spelling variant, dates back to Old English. People used “therefore” and “therefor” interchangeably in Middle English. The two spellings diverged in meaning around the year 1800. Since that time, the word therefor acts as “there + for,” whereas the alternate spelling means “in consequence of that.”
Neither Thesaurus.com nor Merriam-Webster provides any synonyms for therefor.
Other Words and Phrases
“Therewith” is an adverb, meaning “thereupon” or “forthwith.” This is another word primarily used in formal legal writing.
The adverb “therein” can mean “in or into that place, time, or thing” or “in that particular or respect.”
“Theretofore” means “up to that time.”
You can use the adverb “thereafter” instead of the phrase “after that.”
“Thereof” means “from that cause or particular.”
“I think, therefore I am,” was originally written in Latin by René Descartes. The philosophical dictum is sometimes used as an idiom or cliche. When quoted in popular music and drama, it means something akin to “I exist.”
The Words in Context
“For construction, procurement, production, modification, and modernization of aircraft, equipment, including ordnance, ground handling equipment, spare parts, and accessories therefor; specialized equipment and training devices; expansion of public and private plants, including the land necessary therefor, for the foregoing purposes, and such lands and interests therein, may be acquired, and construction prosecuted thereon prior to approval of title; and procurement and installation of equipment, appliances, and machine tools in public and private plants; reserve plant and Government and contractor-owned equipment layaway; and other expenses necessary for the foregoing purposes, $3,771,329,000, to remain available for obligation until September 30, 2022.” —H.R.1158 – Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2020, U.S. Congress
“Drew Lock had a very underwhelming first season as a starter for the Broncos, but if the Broncos draft a QB, do you honestly trust Pat Shurmur and Fangio to develop that quarterback? Therefore, the Broncos ditching Lock doesn’t make sense given who is coaching this team.” —The Fan 104.3 FM, “The GM Search Has Shown…”
“Cold blooded animals including reptiles and amphibians shelter in water or muddy sediments during cold periods. Water transfers heat more slowly than air; therefore, lakes and ponds drop their temperatures more slowly than the ambient air.” —Savannah Morning News, “Learn How Animals Survive…”
I’m an award-winning playwright with a penchant for wordplay. After earning a perfect score on the Writing SAT, I worked my way through Brown University by moonlighting as a Kaplan Test Prep tutor. I received a BA with honors in Literary Arts (Playwriting)—which gave me the opportunity to study under Pulitzer Prize-winner Paula Vogel. In my previous roles as new media producer with Rosetta Stone, director of marketing for global ventures with The Juilliard School, and vice president of digital strategy with Up & Coming Media, I helped develop the voice for international brands. From my home office in Maui, Hawaii, I currently work on freelance and ghostwriting projects.