Than and then can be hard to differentiate, especially when they’re spoken aloud.
One common mistake that writers make is the use of then when than should be used for comparisons.
Read on to learn more about the different uses of than and then so you can make sure your writing is error-free.
Than or Then?
Than and then represent two different parts of speech that should not be confused.
The main difference to remember is that than is used to discuss differences, whereas then usually relates to time.
Definition of Than
Than is a conjunction that is used to introduce the second part of an unequal comparison. When expressing preference, than can introduce the rejected option.
Below are examples that illustrate how than can be used when discussing comparisons and preferences.
- I like dogs more than cats.
- Rather than waste more time, Kate preferred to get started with the project immediately.
- He is younger than I am.
- It’s easier said than done.
- Better safe than sorry!
Definition of Then
Then most often serves as an adverb. Although it is assigned many definitions by dictionaries, it almost always relates to time, as in “at that time,” “next,” “afterward,” and “as a consequence.”
For example, in the sentence, “First I must go to the grocery store, then to the post office,” then means “next,” because the subject is going first to one location before traveling to the next.
Then can also serve as an adjective or a noun. As an adjective, then means “being at the time indicated.” As a noun, it means “that time.”
Below are several examples that illustrate how then is used as a reference to time or sequences.
- My cousin moved to Hawaii last year and I have not seen her since then.
- My then classmate was going out with my brother at the time.
- First you need to fill out the application, then you can check your status online.
- Back then, there were no cell phones.
- If you’re going to have that attitude, then you should probably stay home.
More Than or More Then?
One common grammatical mistake that many writers make is that they write more then instead of more than when making comparative statements.
As we explained above, than should always be used in comparisons. Common statements that should be accompanied by than include:
- Rather than
- Better than
- Worse than
- Other than
- Different than
- More than
- Less than
- Sooner than
Than vs. Then
Than and then, though often used interchangeably, have two very different meanings that should not be confused.
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