I noticed from some1 Books output some entries(example) where "now" and "then" are used as adverbs to compare something now with something then(not unlike "before and after"); or to identify a period of time when events related to a person/topic/place unfold. Often this appears within titles and is followed by a colon:

[a person/topic/place] Now and then: the journey from Z to A/a review of an era in the field of strange... etc.

Obviously in context this doesn't mean "occasionally". At the same time it seems to "mean a lot" with very little, so to speak, as in it's shorter/simpler than since then until now, and the order is not chronological as it would be with then and now.

Is that simply considered the literal meaning of those adverbs modifying the preceding noun? Or is that some kind of competing "idiom" as in "the now and the then" of something; are those two adverbs some kind of group ? Why is the preposition "of" not required between the noun and "now and then"; and why isn't the syntax rather "Now and then: [a person/topic/place], the journey... etc."?

1. I was curious about the usage of a few idioms which use the "every" determiner to introduce a frequency i.e. every + now and then (see here, here).

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    I reads [a person/topic/place] now and then (I feel weird to capitalize only N but not t, so I write now in the lowercase) as "(how) [a person/topic/place] (is (like)) now, and (how) [a person/topic/place] (is (like)) then". Apr 13, 2015 at 9:39

1 Answer 1


Generally you will find these in titles of works. Essentially, it is referring to points in time: now, the present, and then, the past.

These works will usually compare or contrast phenomena or behaviour in the two time periods.

It's not an adverb, it's a stylistic choice of title.

  • Thank you! So just the literal meaning styled a certain way in a tittle. Any comment on the order i.e. now and then vs. then and now; any reason we start with the present? I also gather punctuation has no real impact here?
    – user16335
    Apr 18, 2015 at 19:09
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    @Amphiteóth: I think it could only work with a colon or an em dash. The reason for this is that they are both used as conjunctions when one elaborates - that is, when one restates something, in a different way. I'd also say that it's probably a matter of proximity - now and then, but it might just be a strange quirk of the language.
    – jimsug
    Apr 19, 2015 at 9:05

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