If you’re wondering what ‘see you then’ means or when it’s appropriate to say it, you’re in the right place.
In short, ‘see you then’ is a way to close a conversation when you’ve already arranged the details of when you’ll see a person next.
‘See you then’ is the truncated version of 'I will see you then', which is the future tense. Therefore, we’re talking about a moment in the future when we will see someone.
Leaving out parts of a sentence that aren’t necessary to understand the meaning is called 'ellipsis.'
The subject 'I' and the verb 'will' are dropped for convenience in this case.
Other examples of an ellipsis in this sense of the word include:
To use this phrase, you would have had to agree on a meeting time with the person you are conversing with because 'then' refers to that particular moment in time.
There is one exception to the above rule when you don’t need to have pre-agreed a meeting time to say, “see you then.”
That is when 'then' is used at the end of the clause for no apparent grammatical reason but to transition. It can usually be replaced with 'in that case.'
Therefore, you might hear people say “see you then” as synonymous with “see you.” Like in the following examples:
I have to go now, guys.
Okay, see you then.
I live in the neighborhood, so I’ll see you around.
Okay, see you then.
‘See you then’ is appropriate for informal settings. Here are some examples of it being used in a sentence.
I’m free next Thursday at 6 pm if that works for you.
Great, see you then!
I can drop by tomorrow morning.
That’s perfect. I’ll see you then!
The meeting is at 9 am on Friday, so I’ll see you then.
As you can see from the final example, ‘see you then’ can still be used in professional settings. That’s because it isn’t quite formal, but it isn’t informal, either. You could consider it somewhere in the middle.
If you wanted to make it more informal, you could say, “see ya then.” Or you could drop the 'then' and say, “see you,” but bear in mind that you would no longer be referring to a specific moment in time but just generally stating that you’ll see the person again.
Although, as I mentioned, ‘see you then’ isn’t wholly informal, you can make it more formal if you want to use it in certain contexts that require a little more formality, such as an email between colleagues or a planned meeting with prospective clients.
Here are some examples of the phrase slightly transformed and used in formal contexts.
The conference will begin at 9 am, with hot beverages and pastries served from 8.30 am. We look forward to seeing you then.
I’ll see you at the meeting, where we’ll have the opportunity to talk logistics.
Other than that, you can just use 'see you then.' Let’s try it in that last example:
At the meeting, we’ll have the opportunity to talk logistics. I’ll see you then.
You don’t have to use 'see you' with 'then.' There are many other adverbs you can use it with. For example:
Or if you wanted to use another expression that’s specific about when you’re meeting, like ‘see you then,’ you could use:
You might be wondering how you should respond when someone says this. The truth is, no response is required. That’s because it’s mostly a closing statement. It’s something you say at the end of the conversation when you’re about to leave.
However, if you do want to reply, here are some different responses you could use:
You sure will.
Not if I see you first!
See you then.
That’s right; you can also keep it simple and reply, 'see you then' to 'see you then'.
As you can see, ‘see you then’ is a pretty straightforward expression used as a farewell greeting at the end of a conversation when you know that you’ll be seeing the other person soon at a specific time.
To learn about other English expressions, common idioms, and figures of speech, check out our blog section on the topic.