Then vs. Than: Common Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

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.

Throughout this article, we will delve into the distinction between “then” and “than,” providing examples and tips to help improve your English language proficiency. By recognizing the functions of these homophones, you will be better equipped to express yourself with accuracy and confidence.

Understanding Then vs. Than

Then vs. Than: the Meanings

Then refers to time and typically indicates a past or subsequent event or moment. For example, “We went to the park, and then we had lunch.”

Than is used for comparisons, highlighting differences between two objects or subjects. For example, “He is taller than his brother.”

Then vs. Than: Part of Speech


  • Adverb: indicates time or consequence, e.g., “I was younger then.”
  • Noun: refers to a specific point in time, e.g., “Let’s meet again at then.”
  • Adjective: describes a previous state or status, e.g., “the then-president.”


  • Conjunction: connects clauses or coordinates words in comparisons, e.g., “She is faster than him.”
  • Preposition: used in comparison expressions, e.g., “I would rather walk than drive.”

Then vs. Than: Commonly Confused Words

  • Then (time-related): Bagels were cheaper back then.
  • Than (comparison): Amanda is shorter than Annabelle.

Although then and than might sound similar, they have distinct meanings and grammatical functions. Remember to use then when talking about time and than for comparisons to ensure clear and accurate communication.

Use then when:

  • Referring to a specific point or period in time
  • Talking about consequences or sequences of events
  • Describing a previous state or status

Use than when:

  • Comparing two things or people
  • Introducing a preference or choice
  • Signaling an exception or contrasting conditions

By keeping these distinctions in mind, we can more effectively communicate our ideas and avoid confusion in our writing and speech.

Then or Than: Usage and Examples

Using Than


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.


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.

In summary, “than” plays a vital role in enabling comparisons and emphasizing differences or exceptions between objects, subjects, or situations. Keeping these distinctions in mind will help create clear and concise sentences.

Using Then


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.


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.


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.

In summary, remember to use “then” when referring to time, expressing consequences, and illustrating sequences. By understanding these distinctions, your writing will be clearer and more coherent.

Difference between Than vs. Then | Infographic

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

Tips for Remembering When to Use Then vs. 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.

Then or Than: Context Matters

Subject and Object

In English grammar, the subject and object are important components in sentence construction. Understanding their roles can help determine the correct usage of “then” and “than.” The subject performs the action, while the object receives the action. In comparisons with “than,” the subject and object are in the objective case, denoting the two elements being compared. For example:

  • He is taller than she (subject) is.

Comparisons with Identical Twins

When comparing identical twins, using “than” instead of “then” becomes even more crucial. Since they share many physical features and may have similar traits, clear and accurate comparisons are necessary. Here are a few examples of using “than” in comparisons with identical twins:

  • Maria is more outgoing than her twin sister, Emily.
  • Despite being identical twins, John is taller than Tom.

Using Then and Than in Different Situations

Distinguishing “then” and “than” in various contexts is essential for proper usage. “Then” is mainly used to indicate time, sequence, consequences, or conditions. “Than” is used to compare two or more things. Examples of using “then” and “than” in different situations:

Situation Using “Then” Using “Than”
Time We had dinner, then saw a movie.
Sequence First, mix the eggs, then add the flour.
Consequence If you study hard, then you’ll succeed.
Condition If it’s sunny, then we’ll go to the park.
Comparison She is faster than her competitors.
Comparison (appearance) The new dress is more elegant than the old one.
Substitute (order, appearance) Choose a different color than blue.

By understanding the context and applying the appropriate usage of “then” and “than,” your writing will be clearer and more accurate.

Then vs. Than: the Conclusion

The “Then vs. Than” dilemma might be a challenging one but there are tricks that will help you. If you can replace the word with an adverb that indicated time, such as “afterward” or “subsequently”, you need to use “then”. If you can use “in that case” instead of the word in question, the correct option also is “then”. If you are making a comparison between two people, objects, or things, “than” is the word that you are looking for.

Let’s see an example: “John did his homework and then/ than went to the cinema”. See if you can rewrite the sentence: “John did his homework and afterward went to the cinema”. It sounds correct, so you need to use “then”.

Another example will be, “My dress is prettier then/ than Mary’s”. Here you are comparing your dress to Mary’s dress; therefore, the correct word will be “than”.

What is the word to use when you say, “If my car breaks down, then/ than I will arrive late”? In this sentence, you can replace the word in question with “in that case”. Or, if you change the structure of the sentence, you can say, “In case my car breaks down, I will arrive late”. Therefore, “then” is the word you should use.


Last Updated on May 5, 2023

1 thought on “Then vs. Than: Common Mistakes and How to Avoid Them”

  1. I’ll give you a key. Then you will be free….
    I’ll give a key; then you will be free…

    This could be rephrased as “You would have always been free except that we made a terrible mistake and then another and another…and we gave veiled threats when you told us so. Here is the key and a receipt for the electronic transfer of three million tax-free dollars to you. We are making a public announcement so everyone will know we goofed and you were right!”


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