A lot of people practice incorrect usage of ‘Than’ and ‘Then’, even though both serve different purposes altogether. Penlighten explains the differences between then vs. than, and guides you towards the correct usage of these two very important words in the English language.
Use the word ‘than’ when comparing, and ‘then’ in all other instances.
‘Than’ is basically used as a conjunction. A conjunction is a grammatical particle that connects words, sentences, phrases, and clauses. It is mostly used when making a comparison or depicting amount/quantity. An example for the former could be, “My cousin looks prettier than me”, or “Electric cars are way better than fuel cars”. In terms of quantity/amount, it is used more like, “I am earning more than I used to”, or “A cup of Cappuccino costs more than a donut”.
‘Then’, being an adverb, indicates time (when?), or is at times also used to connect a sequence of events. Adverbs are words which simplify or modify the meaning of verbs. The adverb ‘then’ is mostly used in cases like, “For a moment she felt his presence, and then realized that he was no more”, or “First the detective observed the victim, then the witness”.
Let’s take a look at some more examples of ‘than’ and ‘then’ usage, and a quick activity to test what you have learned.
Then Vs. Than Usage
Read this sentence carefully; “She rushed to office, and then to the court for the divorce petition.” What can you analyze from the usage of ‘then’? Let’s try splitting the sentence to simplify it. Two events occurred, she rushed to office, and she rushed to the court for the divorce petition. Note that these sentences, when framed separately, look like two different events that occurred at different times, and in regards to two different persons altogether. However, when a ‘then’ is used to connect the two, one can easily infer that the two events occurred in succession, and are associated to the same person.
Take a look at this one. “I was living in New Jersey then.” The sentence provides us two parts of data; one, I was living in New Jersey, and two, the time factor which is indicated by then. Therefore, the sentence conveys that the person, while narrating an incident from his/her past, is telling us that he used to live in New Jersey.
Maple syrup tastes better than molasses. This sentence is basically a comparison between two things – maple syrup and molasses. The word ‘than’ is very essential when comparing two nouns in terms of more, less, better, worst, smart, dumb, and other comparative adjectives.
‘Than’ sometimes is also used in exception-statements. For instance, “Jacob wasn’t involved in any crime other than forgery.”
Read the Paragraph
The following morning, I woke up later than usual, made breakfast for the kids, and fed the lazy dog. I went to the nearby store, then the spa, and then to Gucci for a pair of shoes. I had to look special this evening, prettier than every female attending the party. But then, a second thought popped in my mind, “what if all this didn’t work out? What if Mr. Nicholas didn’t turn up? No, he would, I should think positive”, I told myself. I have waited months for this evening, and I know I am going to make it.
After reading this paragraph, you will have understood better as to how both words function. Although correct usage of these two words is important, it is also essential to pronounce them correctly. The pronunciation for ‘th’ remains the same in both. However, ‘than’ sounds more like a mixture of ‘th’ and ‘an’. On the other hand, ‘then’ sounds like ‘th’ plus ‘en’ from the word ‘den’. If you pronounce them differently/correctly, you will perceive them differently. Take this quick test to see what you have learned.
Take the Test
If your score was above 4, you’ve understood the correct use of ‘then’ vs. ‘than’ quite well. Do spread this simple knowledge among your friends and acquaintances, who have been using these two words wrongly.