I am wondering if the bold parts could be used interchangeably? If not, why? Two examples have been excerpted from the very site:

Since then, the two children lived alone...

From then on, the two children lived alone...

Meanwhile, is there any situation they cannot be used interchangeably?

  • 1
    same question : english.stackexchange.com/questions/231026/…
    – v kumar
    Aug 14, 2015 at 7:16
  • Am I mistaken in thinking that "since then" puts the weight a little more on the "then situation", whilst "from then on" puts the weight a little more in the time following? In other words, that they do mean the same but give different weight either to the "then situation" or to the "future situation"?
    – holroy
    Aug 16, 2015 at 22:01

3 Answers 3


First of all I'm not a native english speaker my self, but to me there is a slight distinction which doesn't address whether the action afterwards has completed or not, but more to the point of how the "then situation" is emphasized somehow.

Here are some example which I find has a nice ring with only one of the constructions:

  • Since then, there has been much water under the bridge
  • Since then, they have accomplished a great deal
  • From then on, they stayed together as a couple
  • From then on, he lost faith in man kind
  • From then on, no one saw either of the children smile again

For me the "since then" construction emphasizes the "then situation" more than the other, and gives it greater significance, but this situation is over, and the world has moved on.

Whilst the "from then on" gives more focus to what comes afterwards, the situation has happened, and it has changed something which affects the after situation more.

I can't explain it any better than this, but that is my take on the difference on these very similar phrases. I do believe in a lot of cases they can be interchanged although they might be inflict different importance by the reader regarding the "then situationt" versus the following fact.


Since then, the two children lived alone.

From then on, the two children lived alone.

The first sentence isn't correct grammatically, but the second one is correct.

The idiom "from then on" means "from that time"; it's used for an action or event that happened in the past; the event or action is no longer continuing.

From then on, the two children lived alone. (They did so in the past; they don't live alone in the present).

On the other hand, the phrase since then also means from that time, but we don't use it in the past simple. It's used for an event or action that's continuing. Hence, it's used in the present perfect or present perfect continuous such as:

Since then, the two children have lived alone/have been living alone. (They still live alone).

(When I looked up the word "then" in the The Free Dictionary and Webster, I was surprised to know it's also used as a noun that means "that time" (a point in time for which we use since in perfect sentences).

  • I feel that those things seem to be people's preference but not rules because who decided on that way? The meaning of 'since' doesn't say anything that it's only for the perfect tense structures.
    – karlalou
    Feb 9, 2020 at 21:00

Then refers to a point of time or a particular event.

So since then means that the time since that point of time. And from then on means from that particular time onward.

They basically have the same meaning. I don't think there is any difference in meaning. I also don't think that one is used with action that has already completed and the other, with actions that are still going on. This is suggested in one of the threads in ELU, but I think that is wrong info.

From then on -

  1. From then on I have no recollection of the next several days.

  2. From then on she is not quite so stricken with adoration, but entirely happy.

  3. This new life provides her with the opportunity to change her name to something more suitably black - from then on she is known as Leshaya.

Since then -

  1. It has since then been evolving.

And in your example sentence, both versions are correct and do mean the same thing.

Since then, the two children lived alone.

From then on, the two children lived alone.

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