13 October 2011
Only two letters make the difference between then and than. Perhaps the reason why people frequently confuse them is that they sound almost the same. To see what I mean read this sentence out loud: I’d rather have chocolate than anything else.
But there are bigger differences between these words than just two little vowels. Let’s take a closer look.
The correct use of then
Most of the time, we use the adverb then to indicate time. There are several different meanings.
· To mean ‘at that time’ – Life was simpler then.
· To mean ‘immediately or soon afterward’ – The rain stopped and then started again.
· To mean ‘next in order of time’ – Please complete the form and then return it to us.
· To mean ‘at the same time’ – The sky was completely clear, but then it suddenly went dark.
Then can also be used to indicate ‘next in order of place’ – The first person in line is our manager, then his personal assistant, and then his secretary.
Memory Tip: Since then is most often used to indicate time – think of the question word when (also spelled with an ‘e’).
The correct use of than
The conjunction than can also be used in several ways.
· To introduce the second item/person of an unequal comparison.
Mark is taller than his elder brother, Jim.
That project took longer than we expected it would.
· To introduce a rejected choice when you’re talking about preferences. For example, I’d rather take a taxi than walk.
· To mean ‘except’ or ‘other than’. For example, We had no choice than to take the deal.