Therefor vs. Therefore: What’s the Difference?

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.

Your writing, at its best

Compose bold, clear, mistake-free writing with Grammarly's AI-powered writing assistant

Etymology

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.” 

Definitions

Merriam-Webster categorizes both words as adverbs. 

Therefor means “for or in return for that.”

The same dictionary defines therefore as:

  • for that reason, consequently
  • because of that
  • on that ground
  • to that end

Synonyms

According to Thesaurus.com, synonyms for therefore include:

  • accordingly
  • so
  • then
  • thus
  • consequently
  • hence
  • thence

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” orin 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

“An eligible entity seeking a grant under this section shall submit to the Secretary an application therefor in such form, in such manner, and containing such commitments and information as the Secretary considers necessary to carry out this section.”
S.785 – Commander John Scott Hannon Veterans Mental Health Care Improvement Act of 2019, 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…”

“‘The Commission therefore concluded that the transaction, as modified by the commitments, would no longer raise competition concerns.’”
Reuters, London Stock Exchange Gets EU Nod…”

Sources: 

  1. https://www.etymonline.com/word/therefore
  2. https://www.etymonline.com/search?q=therefor
  3. https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/therefore
  4. https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/therefor
  5. https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/therewith
  6. https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/therein
  7. https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/theretofore
  8. https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/thereafter
  9. https://www.congress.gov/bill/116th-congress/house-bill/1158/
  10. https://www.congress.gov/bill/116th-congress/senate-bill/785/
  11. https://1043thefan.com/2091501/the-gm-search-has-shown-just-how-deeply-the-broncos-are-in-the-mud/
  12. https://www.savannahnow.com/story/lifestyle/2021/01/11/how-animals-survive-cold-oatland-island-wildlife-center/4138809001/
  13. https://www.reuters.com/article/uk-refinitiv-m-a-lse-eu/london-stock-exchange-gets-eu-nod-for-27-billion-takeover-of-refinitiv-idUSKBN29I1S3