Recommended level: Upper intermediate
You have probably heard the word "though" in English shows and movies. It is a common contrast word that can be used in multiple positions in a sentence or set of ideas. If we want to simplify the meaning of "though," it is best understood as a synonym for "but," "however," and "although." At the same time, while it has similar functions to those words, it also has more flexibility. This flexibility needs to be understood well if we want to use "though" with confidence.
By reading and interacting with this blog post, I hope you will understand "though" better, and feel more comfortable using it in your daily English-speaking life.
Let's begin. Here is how to use "though" in English conversation:
1a. "Though" as a substitute for "although"
Just like "although," you can use "though" as a conjunctive adverb at the beginning of a sentence to introduce a contrast, or in the middle of a sentence to do the same. There is no difference in meaning between "though" and "although" in this usage. The only difference is in formality: Because it is a shortened version of "although," "though" is more informal. Note the following examples, and remember that you can substitute "though" for "although" in these sentences with zero change in meaning.
"Though I've lived in this city my entire life, I've never visited the library." (You can also say "I've never visited the library though I've lived in this city my entire life.")
"Though she loved him, she had to leave him."
"I've never met him though I have heard of him."
"Though I know you're telling me the truth, I still have a hard time trusting you."
"Though I'm sure it's a well-paying job, I have no interest in it."
To add emphasis, you can use "even though" in the sentences above as well.
Practice: Finish the sentence. "Though I've lived here my entire life,..."
1b. "Though" as a substitute for "but"
I am calling this 1b because it is incredibly similar to 1a above when "though" comes in the middle of a sentence, and can still technically be replaced with "although." Just note that with this usage, a comma is common before "though." There is a pause between statement and contrast. Note the examples, and compare them to the ones above. The most important thing is to remember that "though" is showing contrast in all of these cases.
"She called me yesterday, though it was such a brief conversation that I don't even remember what we talked about."
"If you ever visit Montreal, you have to try bagels and poutine, though you might want to avoid eating them on the same day!"
"I wasn't invited to the event, though I wish I had been."
"Margaret thought Luis was handsome, though she wouldn't go so far as to call him gorgeous."
"The event starts at 7pm, though you should arrive early if you want a good seat."
Practice: Finish the sentence: "Joanna works hard, though some people think..."
2. "Though" before an adjective
This usage is a little more formal, and is more common in writing. In this case, "though" is still a substitute for "although," but it is closer to saying "despite being." Moreover, it is often used as a quick contrast descriptor after a noun or noun phrase. For example, "Her father, though strict, was a kind man." This means her father was a kind man despite also being strict. Note further examples and word placements below:
"Their house, though small, is quite comfortable."
"Though tired, Kesha worked for another hour." (Meaning, "Despite being tired, Kesha worked for another hour.")
"This ring, though beautiful, costs far more money than I can afford."
"Your intentions, though pure, are misguided."
Practice: Finish the sentence: "This beach, though clean and beautiful,..."
3. "Though" as a substitute for "but" or "however" at the END of a sentence
This is the most common usage of "though" in casual conversation. You have probably heard it. Note the following example: "I think that's the answer. I'm not certain, though." You could rewrite or rephrase this sentence in the following ways: "I think that's the answer, but I'm not certain." "I think that's the answer. However, I'm not certain."
("I'm not sure, though" = "But I'm not sure," or "I'm not sure, however.")
Sometimes, we don't think of a contrasting idea at the exact same time as our first idea. In these cases, we pause after the first thing we say, and then add the contrast almost like an afterthought--as a way of telling our listener "Wait. Actually, I don't want you to think this is the only thing I want to say about this topic." This is where "though" at the end of a second sentence is incredibly useful. Note the examples:
"The party was a lot of fun. It ended too early, though."
"Our dog, Max, always has a great time at the dog park. He always gets really dirty there, though."
"Traffic shouldn't be a problem at 2pm. I don't know for sure, though."
"It rained a lot while we were on vacation. We still had a great time, though."
Some common sentences with this usage include "Thanks, though," and "Is it, though?" These are similar to saying "But thanks," or "But is it?" The second sentence in particular has become more popular lately as a result of this meme from the 2017 Marvel movie, Thor: Ragnarok:
This usage is similar to asking "But is it?", "Are you sure?", or "Is that really the case?" Informally, it is like saying "Really?" Here are some other examples that show this usage with a variety of auxiliary verbs. In all of these cases, the person using "though" is skeptical of the original sentence.
"He can play guitar."
"Can he, though?" (Meaning, I have some doubts about your claim. I'm not so sure that he can play the guitar well.)
"She's a great boss."
"Is she, though?" (Meaning, I don't think she's a great boss.)
"We should help them."
"Should we, though?" (Meaning, I don't feel like helping them, either because I don't want to, or I don't think they need or deserve my help.)
"That was a great movie!"
"Was it, though?" (Meaning, I don't think it was a great movie.)
Because this usage of "though" is so common in casual English conversation, here are several more examples to give you even more context.
"I think the restaurant is at the end of this street. I'm not sure, though."
"I would prefer to do this on my own. Thanks for offering to help, though."
"I didn't get a chance to talk to her. I really wanted to, though!"
Practice: Add a second sentence and end it with "though" to add a contrast to the first sentence: "This is a really clean apartment..."
4. "Though" in the phrase "as though"
This is synonymous with "as if" or "like" when making comparisons. You can use "as though" and "as if" when you are giving a possible explanation for something, or saying that something seems to be the case even though it might not be. There is an element of unreality and hypothetical thinking to this usage. Note the examples and explanations:
"Why is he so tired and sweaty? He looks as though he's run a marathon." (Meaning, he looks like he has run a marathon.)
"Why is she wearing that expensive dress? It's as though she wants people to think she's richer than she is." (Meaning, my perception of the situation is that she wants people to think she has more money than she actually does.)
"He started laughing as though he had heard a very funny joke." (Meaning, it was like he had heard a very funny joke.)
"I hope everything goes well for you."
"Don't act as though you care." (Meaning, do not act like you care because I think you probably don't.)
Practice: Finish the sentence: "Why are you so happy? You look as though..."
Well, that's it. I hope you feel more confident and comfortable with the word "though." Remember, the key to learning anything is regular revision. Come back to this article if you ever need a reminder of how to use this common word. Sometimes, just reading examples can help. And I hope this resource has helped you.
If you would like to continue boosting your English vocabulary, please consider picking up one of the books in my Practical English series. My goal with these books is to teach common language that English learners will actually use. I'm confident you will benefit from them.
Until next time, thanks for reading, and I wish you success in your studies.