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Then vs Than? What's the Difference and How To Get It Right

Then vs Than? What's the Difference and How To Get It Right

But They Sound The Same!

The English language is full of examples of words that sound alike but mean entirely different things. In this post, we will discuss "then" vs "than" and will explain how to use them in conjunction with other phrases. We will provide context for each word and meaning so that by the end, you should be able to use these two words without any confusion!

Grammar book


Let's start with the word "then". This is used when you want to express something related to time or a sequence. You might use it to link actions or events in a time-based manner, like, "First I ate dinner with my brother, then we watched a movie." We use the word "then" to connect actions or ideas, to show what happens next, in conjunction with a previous time or as a consequence of something.



Now it's time to introduce the word "than". An easy way to remember how to use this is to consider "than" the comparison word.

If you want to compare adjectives to each other, such as "a 5th grader is smarter than a 4th grader" or "a cheetah is faster than a sports car", "than" is your go-to word. It allows you to weigh options, assess qualities, make comparisons and ultimately helps to clarify your thoughts when you're making choices or judgments.

Apple and orange on a seesaw

Common Mistakes

People commonly mix up the usage of "then" and "than" in the English language all the time due to their confusingly similar spelling and nuanced differences. Sometimes, it's a mere typo or autocorrect feature that causes confusion, but other times, it occurs because these two words sound almost identical, especially when talking at a fast pace.

In informal speech, using a sentence like, "I'd rather be watching Netflix then doing my homework" might go unnoticed, but in modern writing, it's considered a mistake. To be grammatically correct, you would need to rephrase it as, "I'd rather be watching Netflix than doing my homework."

It's important to ensure that right word is used with these adjectives to express the difference between these two common words and common phrases.

Frustrated man


There are many times when "then" and "than" are used incorrectly in both speaking and writing.

For example, an incorrect use would be: "I would rather eat pizza then salad." In this sentence, using "then" suggests a sequence or order of events, which does not align with the intended meaning of a comparison. The right word to use here is "than": "I would rather eat pizza than salad."

An example of a correct use of the word "than" would be: "She is more talented than her sister." In this example, "than" is used to establish a comparison between two individuals. In this instance, you would not use the word "then", because this preposition does not provide the element of comparison.

Usage For Comparison Purposes

You could use the preposition "than" to compare a large variety of adjectives, such as height, age, preference, ability etc.

For example, you could say, "My hair is longer than yours," or, "This meal tastes better than last night's dinner."

Making a grammar error and using "then" can change the meaning and confuse the reader. To ensure your sentence makes grammatical sense, always double-check the usage.

For example, "The current President Biden is older than then president President Trump." In this example, both "than" and "then" are used - did you catch the distinction between the two?

Different Meanings

Although they may sound like the same word, they have different meanings and serve different functions in a sentence. "Then" deals with time, order, or consequence, while "than" is all about making direct comparisons.

Think of sentences with "then" as the timeline guy and "than" as conjunction for an adjective, each serving a different purpose.

Tips for Remembering

If you struggle with remembering the essential difference between "then" and "than," we've put together some helpful tips for you.

To associate "then" with the concept of time, think of the rhyming word "when." This connection will help to remember that "then" is used to place events in a specific order, whether past, present or future.

For the word "than," think of making an unequal comparison. This association will remind you that "than" is a conjuction, utilized when comparing one thing with another.

Bow tied around index finger

Practice Exercises

Want to put what you've learned about then vs than to the test? Here are some quick exercises to help you remember the difference, practice and reinforce your understanding.

My sister is taller than my brother.

He walked the dog, then did his homework.

First, we mix the dry ingredients, then we add the wet ingredients.

I like driving in my car more than riding my bike.

If you identified the usage of "than" and "then" in the previous sentences, congratulations! These two words can be easily confused, but with practice, it will become easier to distinguish their meaning in the appropriate contexts. Keep practicing!

Final Thoughts

So there you have it—your comprehensive guide to conquering the confusing "then" vs. "than" dilemma, provided by our informal No Story Lost School of Grammar. With some practice and maybe a mnemonic or two, you'll remember the difference between these words, every time.

Always remember, at a specific point in time, "then" has an 'e' for events, which will point to something that occurred in the past or will happen in the future time. On the other hand, "than" has an 'a' for comparing apples and oranges—or whatever you like to compare at any particular time!

Lady raising her arms in the air while on her laptop

Still Need Help?

While you might be able to get away with confusing "than" and "then" when you speak, these words need to be used correctly in your writing.

If you would like to write a book about your life story, but are worried that your writing skills are not where they need to be, let us do the work for you. We have skilled interviewers and writers who went to school to learn exactly how to use these words and their meaning and will create a beautiful, error-free book for you and your family to cherish forever. Visit our website and click 'Start Your Project' to get started.


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