Blog Grammar Rules Then vs. Than: How to Use Each Correctly

Then vs. Than: How to Use Each Correctly

Hannah Yang

Hannah Yang

Speculative Fiction Author

Published Apr 28, 2022

Then vs than title

Many writers mix up the words then and than because they sound alike, even though they have different meanings.

So how do you know which one to use?

The short answer is that than with an A is used to talk about comparisons, while then with an E is used to talk about time.

This article will explain the difference between these two confusing words and give you tips for remembering which one to use.

Contents:
  1. Then vs. Than: What’s the Difference?
  2. Examples of When to Use Then vs. Than in a Sentence

Then vs. Than: What’s the Difference?

The essential difference between than and then is that you should use than when making comparisons, while you should use then for things relating to order or time.

The difference between then and than

We use than for comparison purposes. For example, you would say “Kelly is taller than her brother,” not “Kelly is taller then her brother,” because this word compares Kelly’s height to her brother’s.

Here are some sentences that use than:

  • He is older than I am.
  • The food came out quicker than we expected.
  • Dogs are better than cats.
  • My grandmother’s china is more than a hundred years old.

The word than often follows a comparative adjective, such as taller, stronger, or bigger.

If you’re wondering which word to use, and you’ve just used a comparative adjective within the same clause, you probably should be using than instead of then.

Tip for using "than"

In contrast, we use then to talk about time and order.

For example, you would say “Susan went home, and then she went to the store,” not “Susan went home, and than she went to the store,” because this word describes the order in which Susan performed two actions.

Here are some sentences that use then:

  • I was only ten years old back then!
  • Obama was first a senator, then President.
  • He went to the doctor, then he went to the pharmacy.
  • She slammed on the brakes and then turned quickly.

The word then is commonly used as a synonym for subsequently. If you’re not sure which spelling to use, you can try swapping the word for subsequently to see if you should be using then.

Tip for using "then"

Examples of When to Use Then vs. Than in a Sentence

There are many common phrases that contain then and than, which many writers tend to get confused. Take a look at the following examples.

More Then or More Than?

The correct phrase is more than, not more then, because it’s used to make a comparison between two things.

Here are some examples:

  • My son spends more than he earns.
  • Lately, she’s been exercising more than she used to.
  • I deserve this promotion more than my colleagues do.

Better Than or Better Then?

The correct phrase is better than, not better then. Like more than, it’s used to make a comparison between two things.

In fact, you could substitute the word better than with more good than.

Even though it would be grammatically incorrect to phrase it that way, substituting it in your head can help you figure out whether than is the right word to use.

Here are some examples:

  • I like blue better than green.
  • Eating vegetables is better than eating sweets.
  • She’s doing better than she was last year.

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Other Than or Other Then?

The correct phrase is other than, not other then. This phrase is more of a contrast than a comparison, because it emphasizes the difference between one thing and another.

Here are some examples:

  • Sharon has no close friends other than Amanda.
  • Other than washing the dishes, he doesn’t do much to help out around the house.
  • I don’t have any ulterior motives, other than trying to help you.

Just Than or Just Then?

The phrase just then means “at a particular moment.” Because this phrase is related to time, it uses then, not than.

Here are some examples:

  • Just then, a knock came at the door.
  • Just then, my phone rang, interrupting my train of thought.
  • Had she cast a spell on me just then?

Back Than or Back Then?

The phrase back then means “at a particular time in the past.” Like just then, this phrase is related to time, so you should use then instead of than.

Here are some examples:

  • The world was different back then.
  • I can’t believe we were so happy back then.
  • Back then, recess time was the highlight of my whole day.

Every Now and Than, or Every Now and Then?

Every now and then is a phrase that means “from time to time” or “occasionally.” Because it is related to time, it uses then, not than.

Here are some examples:

  • We still hang out every now and then.
  • My sister indulges in a spa day every now and then.
  • Every now and then, I wonder if I made the right choice.

Then Again or Than Again?

Then again is a phrase that you use when you have a new thought that’s different from what you just said. You can think of it as a synonym for “on the other hand.”

This phrase is a little trickier than the others we’ve covered, because it doesn’t relate as directly to time or order.

To avoid misspelling phrases like this one, you simply have to memorize the correct spelling. You can also use a grammar checker like ProWritingAid to make sure you’re using the right word.

ProWritingAid's tool correcting than to then

Here are some examples:

  • I miss my friends, but then again, I like being alone.
  • The leather chair is comfier than the wicker one; then again, it costs more money.
  • You’re working very slowly, but then again, you’re new to the job.

And Than Some or And Then Some?

And then some is a phrase that means “and even more.” It uses the word then because it relates to time. Picture someone holding an armful of objects, and then having to pick up even more.

Here are some examples:

  • That new car must have cost him an arm and a leg, and then some.
  • We danced until the clubs closed, and then some, because we weren’t ready to go home.
  • He cleaned his whole bedroom and then some before his in-laws came to visit.

What other similar words in the English language do you tend to mix up? Let us know in the comments.


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Hannah Yang

Hannah Yang

Speculative Fiction Author

Hannah is a speculative fiction writer who loves all things strange and surreal. She holds a BA from Yale University and lives in Colorado. When she’s not busy writing, you can find her painting watercolors, playing her ukulele, or hiking in the Rockies. Follow her work on hannahyang.com or on Twitter at @hannahxyang.

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