There are a lot of confusing words in the English language that have similar sounds and spellings but very different meanings. Two of the most troublesome such words are "then" and "than." They are often misused, which is part of what makes an editing tool like ProWritingAid so powerful.
Today, we explore the difference between "than" and "then," and how to use each correctly in a sentence.
When to use than
"Than" is a conjunction used for making comparisons between two things.
Consider these examples:
- She is taller than her sister.
- The food came out more quickly than we expected.
- Cats are better than dogs.
Notice that two things are being compared in each instance. In the first example, the girl's height is compared to that of her sister's. In the second, the speed of the service is compared to the speaker's expectations. In the third, cats and dogs are compared.
When to use then
"Then" has more uses than "than." (Did you catch the comparison there?) "Then" is most often used as an adverb or adjective. Here are some examples of how to use "then":
To show a specific time:
- I'll be ready for the presentation then.
- She was at the dog park then.
To show time in sequence:
- I finished the presentation and then went home.
- She went to the dog park and then to the store.
To indicate causality:
- If I don't do well on my presentation, then I may be fired.
- If the dog park is crowded, then we will go somewhere else.
In the above examples, "then" is used as an adverb. "Then" can also be used as an adjective to describe the state of something at a specific time:
- The choice was made by then President Barack Obama.
You should only use "than" when you are comparing two things. In every other instance, you will use "then."