I came upon a sentence I can’t grasp in a text book.

The sentence is the following

What so often happens is that either that day or over time, less and less is kept, first of winnings and then of the sum originally slated for wagering.

I know that an inversion is used in a subordinate clause. So the subject is “first of Winnings and then of the sum originally slated for wagering”.

Here I can’t understand the phrase “then of”

I think the part of speech of “then” might be an adjective. Is it possible that part of the subject is an adjective in the sentence.

  • It seems to be about gambling. Over time, the gambler gets to keep less and less money - at first, they start to keep less of their winnings, and then [less] of the sum they gambled with. Commented Oct 13, 2021 at 14:10
  • The text as written wouldn't be particularly unusual as a spoken utterance, but I'd strongly recommend rephrasing to make it easier to parse as a written text. It's not a good example for deconstructing into traditional named "parts of speech" (even for linguists and grammarians - I certainly can't see that as a useful exercise for non-native Anglophone learners). Commented Oct 13, 2021 at 15:14
  • No: the subject is the noun phrase "what so often happens" ("that which so often happens"). "Then" is best analysed as a preposition: we understand “first, less and less is kept of the winnings, and then (less and less is kept) of the sum originally slated for wagering.
    – BillJ
    Commented Oct 13, 2021 at 15:21

1 Answer 1


In the given sentence, the subject is "What so often happens" and here 'then' is not an adjective, but it's an adverbial conjunction or a 'conjunctive adverb'.

Conjunctive adverbs are adverbials that connect words, phrases, and sentences together. They are used to shorten sentences also. Most of all, they help in 'transition from one topic to another'.

  • Modern grammar calls this "then" a preposition because it means "after that". link
    – BillJ
    Commented Oct 14, 2021 at 7:08

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