It seems that some prepositions and clausal adverbs have antecedents while others do not – for example because and therefore require antecedents, while in and clearly do not. I was wondering whether this property has a name, and where I could find discussion of how the antecedents are selected.

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    Antecedent already has a meaning dealing with coreference of nouns and pronouns; although the etymology is reasonable, it's probly not the right word for what you're asking about. Because and therefore have reference to some portion of the (normally previous) discourse which occasions their use; in this case it's via a causal connection (in both directions with these two words). Though one might want to say that in the cellar on the shelf has reference to whatever NP in the discourse is said to be located there.
    – jlawler
    Commented Apr 30, 2020 at 16:09
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    Perhaps the term you are looking for is predicate instead of antecedent. In this regard, the preposition in can in fact be viewed as a predicate taking two arguments in a sentence like The beer is in the fridge: IN (THE BEER, THE FRIDGE). This is similar to subordinators like because, which arguably take two arguments, the matrix clause and the subordinate clause. Commented May 1, 2020 at 2:26
  • Yes, perhaps it’s more about valency. Therefore sometimes seems to have two arguments (he’d had his fill of wine and was therefore careless in his speech) and sometimes three (he detests being told what to do; when he received the order, therefore, he was furious). But perhaps it always has three arguments and it's just that sometimes the third one (the explanation) can be left unstated when it’s obvious.
    – rchivers
    Commented May 1, 2020 at 12:22
  • That seems to explain why I can’t say because she was there therefore I spoke to her, despite the parallel with if she’s there then I’ll speak to her, and why I can’t say when he heard the news he was therefore in a good mood (or not without supplying the third argument somewhere else), even though I can say when he had heard the news and was therefore in a good mood....
    – rchivers
    Commented May 1, 2020 at 12:23
  • @rchivers “When he heard the news, he was therefore in a good mood” sounds perfectly fine to me; works in reverse too. Because of ‘this’ (whatever in the preceding text therefore refers back to), he was in a good mood at the point in time when he heard the news. What definitely is impossible is “When he heard the news, therefore he was in a good mood”. Commented May 31, 2020 at 17:07

1 Answer 1


Conjunctions like "because" and "which" that are found at the beginning of a dependent clause are often referred to as "subordinating conjunctions" to distinguish them from conjunctions like "and" or "so" which do not form dependent clauses.

"Therefore" however would not be considered a subordinating conjunction as its use results in the formation of independent clauses. But it is clearly different from conjunctions like "and" as it sounds marked when used without a preceding context. These types of words that necessarily link two clauses but do not form dependent clauses when doing so are sometimes referred to as conjunctive adjectives.

It's also important to note that clausal conjunctions can often evolve into discourse markers making them even more difficult to accurately and consistently categorize, as in the case of "so".

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