Then vs. Than: Identifying Misuse and Mastering Usage with Expert Advice

Then vs. than, how to choose the right word? The English language is full of words that look and sound really alike but actually have very different meanings. The words “then” and “than” are only one example: even though they differ by a single letter, they can’t be used to replace each other in a sentence. Many people confuse than vs. then but the difference between the two is pretty straightforward.

“Then,” often used as an adverb, relates to time and sequence of events. It can also function as a noun, representing “that time,” and as an adjective describing a previous status. On the other hand, “than” is employed as a conjunction or preposition, indicating comparison between entities or actions. With these differing roles in mind, it becomes crucial to understand each word’s context in various sentences and expressions.

Then vs. Than: The Main Difference

Then vs. Than: How to Use Than vs. Then CorrectlyPin

Then vs. Than: Key Takeaways

Understanding “Then”

  • ‘Then’ refers to time. It is typically an adverb used for sequencing events (e.g., “We went to dinner, then to the movies.”).

Understanding “Than”

  • ‘Than’ is used for making comparisons. It’s a conjunction or preposition that comes into play when you’re talking about differences (e.g., “He is taller than I am.”).

Tips for Remembering

  • Recall that ‘then’ with an e connects to time events, which also has an e.
  • Link ‘than’ with an a to comparison words, such as smaller, greater, or similar.

Then vs. Than: The Meanings

What Does “Then” Mean? 

“Then” is an adverb used to situate actions in time. It can indicate what comes next in a sequence of events, serve as a consequence (often following “if” in conditional sentences), or compare different times.

What Does “Than” Mean?  

“Than” is a conjunction used in comparative statements to introduce the second element of the comparison. It is used to contrast differences in size, quantity, quality, or characteristics between two things. 

Then or Than: Usage and Examples

Using Than

Comparison

Than is a conjunction used in comparisons, often to introduce the second part of an unequal comparison. It enables the reader to understand the relationship between two objects or subjects being compared. For example:

  • She is taller than he is.
  • The book is more interesting than the movie.

More Than and Other Than

When discussing quantity, “more than” is used to emphasize the difference between two amounts:

  • He has more than 100 books in his collection.

“Other than” is often used to present an alternative option or to make comparisons with exceptions:

  • The red dress looks great, but she decided to wear something other than red.

Exception

Than can also express an exception or a contrasting situation:

  • He will eat any fruit except apples.
  • I would rather travel by train than by airplane.

Using Then

Time

Then is often used to indicate a specific point or period in time. This can refer to the past, present, or future. For example:

  • She told me that she would meet me at the park, but then realized she had a doctor’s appointment.
  • In the 1980s, computers were not as advanced as they are now; it was a simpler time back then.

Consequence

The word then can also be used to demonstrate a consequence, outcome, or result of a specific event or action. It can indicate the natural progression of events or actions as they occur. Examples include:

  • If you don’t study for the test, then you might not pass.
  • Susan finished all her chores and then went out to play with her friends.

Sequence

Lastly, then can be used to express a sequence of events or actions, illustrating the order in which they took place. Appropriate usage involves making it clear which action occurred before or after another. For instance:

  • First, she boiled the water for tea, then she prepared the teapot and tea cups.
  • He unlocked his car, got inside, and then started the engine.

Tips to Remember Then and Than

Formal and Informal Usage

In both formal and informal writing, it is essential to distinguish between “then” and “than” correctly. “Then” relates to time and sequencing events, while “than” is used for making comparisons. For example, use “then” when referring to a specific time or order (“She finished her work, then went for a walk”), and use “than” when comparing two things (“He is taller than his brother”).

Tricks and Mnemonics

To help remember the appropriate usage of “then” and “than,” consider the following mnemonic devices:

  • Linking letters: Associate the letter ‘e’ in “then” with “time” and the letter ‘a’ in “than” with “comparison.” This can serve as a quick reminder of their respective functions in a sentence.
  • Rhyme: Create a simple, rhyming phrase to help remember the difference. For example, “then is when, than is to compare a hen.”
  • Substitute words: Test out the use of the words in the sentence by substituting them with related terms. For “then,” you can use “next” or “at that time,” and for “than,” try “in comparison to” or “as opposed to.” If the sentence still makes sense, you are using the correct term.

Recalling these mnemonic devices can help you easily distinguish between “then” and “than” in your writing, ensuring accurate conveyance of information to your reader.

Examples of Then or Than

Examples of “Then” in Sentences

  1. First, we went to the grocery store, and then we headed to the post office.
  2. If you want to succeed, you must plan your work and then work your plan.
  3. She studied for the test all week, and then she felt confident about her knowledge.
  4. We watched the sunrise, and then we had breakfast on the beach.
  5. He saved his document and then shut down his computer.

Examples of “Than” in Sentences

  1. She is taller than her brother.
  2. I would rather go for a hike than stay indoors all day.
  3. This book is more interesting than the one I read last week.
  4. He can run faster than I can.
  5. It’s better to arrive early than to be late.

Examples of Sentences that Use Both “Then” and “Than”

  1. If you finish your homework, then you can play video games, which is better than doing nothing.
  2. She performed better on the test than she did last time, and then she celebrated her improvement.
  3. He would rather spend time with family than go to the party, and then he planned a family game night.
  4. It’s more important to be kind than to be right, and then you’ll find that people respect you more.
  5. If you can’t decide whether you like apples or oranges better, then try comparing them rather than just guessing.

Then vs. Than: Exercise

Fill in the blank 

Fill in the blanks with either “then” or “than” to correctly complete the sentences.

  1. If you finish your homework, __________ you can watch television.
  2. She is more interested in science __________ she is in mathematics.
  3. We went to the park, and __________ we decided to grab some ice cream.
  4. He would rather spend time outdoors __________ stay inside all day.
  5. First, add the eggs to the mixture, and __________ stir in the flour.
  6. My car is older __________ yours, but it still runs well.
  7. You need to study now, __________ you can relax later in the evening.
  8. She performed better on the test __________ any of her classmates.
  9. __________ I understand the rules, I can play the game more effectively.
  10. This model is less expensive __________ that one but doesn’t have as many features.

Answer with Explanation 

  1. Answer: then
    • Explanation: “Then” is used to indicate what happens next in time.
  2. Answer: than
    • Explanation: “Than” is used in comparisons.
  3. Answer: then
    • Explanation: “Then” indicates the next event in a sequence.
  4. Answer: than
    • Explanation: “Than” is used for making comparisons.
  5. Answer: then
    • Explanation: “Then” is used to show sequence in instructions or events.
  6. Answer: than
    • Explanation: “Than” is used in comparisons between two things.
  7. Answer: then
    • Explanation: “Then” suggests a sequence of activities.
  8. Answer: than
    • Explanation: “Than” is used when comparing performance levels.
  9. Answer: Now that
    • Explanation: “Now that” is the correct phrase to indicate since or because a particular thing has happened.
  10. Answer: than
    • Explanation: “Than” is used for comparing relative value or cost.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the difference between ‘then’ and ‘than’?

  • ‘Then’ typically refers to time, indicating what comes next or afterwards in a sequence.
  • ‘Than’ is used for comparisons, contrasting two different things.

Can ‘then’ be used as anything other than an adverb? Yes, we can use ‘then’ as:

  • An adjective, describing a specific time in the past (e.g., “the then-president”).
  • A noun, referring to a specific time (e.g., “until then”).

In what situations do we use ‘than’? We use ‘than’ when we’re comparing two elements, whether they are nouns, adjectives, or adverbs. For example:

  • “She is taller than her brother.”
  • “We would rather go out than stay home.”

Is it ever correct to start a sentence with ‘then’? Absolutely. We can start a sentence with ‘then’ when showing a sequence of events or as a consequence (e.g., “Then, we decided to leave.”).

Do ‘then’ and ‘than’ ever have interchangeable meanings or uses? No, they serve distinct purposes and are not interchangeable.

How can we remember the difference between ‘then’ and ‘than’? We can remember:

  • Then‘ has an ‘e‘ as in ‘time‘.
  • Than‘ has an ‘a‘ as in ‘comparison‘.
Word Usage Example
Then Indicates time or sequence “We went to the store, and then we went home.”
Than Used in comparisons “She is quicker than he is.”

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Last Updated on December 7, 2023

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