Then or Than? A Helpful Guide

“Than” vs. “Then”—What's the Difference

Then vs. Than: What’s the difference?

One of the common questions that arises when learning English is – what is the difference between “then” and “than“? They look very similar, with just a one-letter difference, but actually have quite distinct meanings and uses. In general, the main difference between “then” and “than” is that then is used to indicate time or consequence, while than is used for comparisons or choices. In this article we will look more closely at then vs than, their definitions, usages, and some examples of how they are used in English.

What Does “Then” Mean in English?

“Then” as an adverb is used to indicate time or consequence. For example:

  • I was happy then and knew what I wanted.
  • He opened the door, then the lights came on and everybody shouted, “Happy birthday!”
  • If we buy Jason a present, then we’ll have to buy one for Isaac too.
  • All right then, we can go.

“Then” as a noun is used after prepositions to refer to “that time.” For example:

  • Since then, I’ve been sad.
  • I’ll call you until then.

“Then” as an adjective is used to indicate that something existed or belonged to the mentioned time. For example:

  • The project was done by the then mayor.
  • He was known in the then Second World War.

Using “Then” in English

“Then” is commonly used to indicate a sequence of events, specifying a particular time or order in which actions occur. Here are some examples of how “then” is properly used in sentences:

  1. Time: “Back then, I lived in Idaho.”
  2. Sequence: “First, cut the onions; then, add them to the pan.”
  3. Consequence: “If you can’t go, then I won’t either.”

In addition, “then” can serve as an adjective describing a certain time in the past, or a noun expressing a certain past time or circumstance. For example:

  • Adjective: “The then-president addressed the nation.”
  • Noun: “We will discuss the matter and decide on a course of action by then.”

What Does “Than” Mean in English?

“Than” is a conjunction that is used to compare two things or people. For example:

  • She is younger than me.
  • He runs faster than you.
  • This book is more interesting than that one.

Than can also be used with words like other, rather, less and more to show contrast or choice. For example:

  • I like this dress more than the other one.
  • He would rather stay at home than go out.
  • She has less money than he does.
  • No one can sing better than her.

Using “Than” in English

“Than” is mostly used as a conjunction or preposition to make comparisons between things, actions, or qualities. Than helps indicate differences when making comparisons. Here are some examples:

  1. Comparison: “She is younger than I am.”
  2. Contrast: “I’d rather jog than walk.”

“Than” is used with phrases like “other than” or “rather than” to indicate an exception or preference: “There was no choice other than to wait.”

Key Differences Between Then and Than in English

Here are some differences between then and than to help avoid confusion:

  • Then is an adverb, noun or adjective used to indicate time or consequence. Than is a conjunction used for comparisons.

  • Then has only one form, while than has two forms: than and that. That is used after superlative adjectives ending in -st, -est, -most or -least. For example:

    • He is the fastest runner.
    • He runs faster than I do.
    • He runs faster that anyone.
  • Then and than have different pronunciations. Then is pronounced with a long “e” sound, while than has a short “e” sound. For example:

    • Then: /ðen/
    • Than: /ðæn/

Tips for Remembering the Difference

  • Think of “then” as relating to time or sequence – it indicates what comes next.
  • Remember “than” is used to compare two things or actions.
  • If you can replace “than” with “in comparison to” in a sentence, then “than” is likely the right choice.
  • A simple way to remember is that “than” and “comparison” share the letter A, while “then” and “time” share the letter E. Hopefully these associations help you quickly decide which to use.

It’s important to know the rules for using “then vs than.” Mixing them up in writing can be a mistake, and in spoken English their similar pronunciations, especially in some dialects, can lead to misunderstandings.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

error: Content is protected !!