There are two main words in English that have similar meanings, but different usage: then and than. In this article, we will look at when to use each word and its correct usage.
Then is used to introduce a comparison or contrast between two things:
“The flowers are in bloom then the bees come.”
This sentence is saying that the flowers are in bloom while the bees are coming, so there is a comparison being made. Then can also be used as part of a subordinating clause to show when something happened after something else:
“I ate my sandwich then I went for a walk.”
Here, “I ate my sandwich” happens before “I went for a walk,” so it is the main clause and than is used as a subordinating conjunction.
Then is used to express a preference or intention, like “I would rather then go out with you” or “She wanted to than stay in bed.” Than is used when there’s a clear alternative, like “She chose to than stay in bed.”
The word ‘than’ is used to compare two things. The first word is called the antecedent and the second word is called the consequent.
For example, if you say, “I eat more than you do,” you are comparing the amount of food that one person eats to the amount of food that another person eats. The antecedent is I and the consequent is you.
Than can also be used as a conjunction, which means it joins two clauses together. For example, in the sentence “I am taller than he is,” ‘than’ is joining the statements ‘I am’ and ‘he is’ together.
Then and Than in Comparison
When comparing two expressions, use “than” to compare things that are more favorable than the first thing, and “then” to compare things that are more unfavorable than the first thing.
Here are some examples:
The flowers are prettier than the plants. (The flowers are more favorable than the plants.)
The student scored higher than the teacher. (The student scored more favorably than the teacher.)
Then is used to introduce a comparison, while Than is used for comparisons that are not introduced by a comparison. For example, in the sentence “The flowers are then taller than the ones last year,” “then” is used to introduce the comparison and “than” is used to show that there is a difference between the two groups of plants.
Similarly, in the sentence “I would rather stay home than go out with them,” “then” is used to introduce the comparison and “than” is used to show that there is a preference for one option over the other.
When Not to Use Then and Than
When writing, it’s important to use the correct verb tense. The two most common verb tenses are past and present. Here are the rules for when to use each:
To Use Then:
If the event happened in the past, use then.
If the event will happen in the future, use than.
To Use Than:
If the event happened in the past, use than.
If the event will happen in the future, use than except if it is followed by a comma or another word that changes its meaning (like until).
When to Use ‘Then’
Then is used to introduce a contrast, in comparison to than. For example, “I prefer then over than.” This means that there is a clear difference between the two options. Than can be used when comparing two things that are both positive, such as “I would rather go out then stay in.”
When to Use ‘Than’
Than can be used either as a conjunction or an adverb. When it is used as a conjunction, it means ‘than but for.’ For example, “I would rather go out than stay in.” When it is used as an adverb, it means ‘than by.’ For example, “She walks faster than I do than he does.”
Then and Than in Parentheses
When writing, it is important to know the difference between then and than. Then is used to introduce a list of things, while than is used to compare two things. Here are some examples:
Then: I have more toys than you do.
Than: My toys are bigger than yours.
Then and than can be confusing words, but they both have different meanings. The main difference between then and than is that then means “in the same order,” while than means “more than.” Here are some examples to help you understand each word better:
A. John is taller than Bill.
B. Bill is taller than John.
In A, John comes after Bill, so then means in the same order. In B, Bill comes before John, so then means more than.
When to Use Then and When to Use Than
The two words have different meanings and are used in different ways. Then is used to introduce a list of things, and Than is used to compare two things. Here are some examples:
Then: I have a laptop, an iPad, and a phone.
Than: I have more than one laptop, more than one iPad, and more than one phone.
Then and than are two words that are often used incorrectly. Then is typically used to introduce a comparison, as in “Jimmy is taller than his sister then.” Than is typically used to convey emphasis, as in “I needed the food then because I was starving.”
Thank you for reading!
This was written by me. Bryce Purnell, founder of Learn Laugh Speak.