Than and ThenThe words then and than look similar, but their uses are very different.
ThenThe word then usually relates to time. It is most commonly used as an adverb. It has the following meanings:
Subsequently or afterwards
- Go to the traffic lights, then turn right.
- It went dark, then there was a scream.
- The council members argued for three days then eventually came to a decision.
- If you had cleaned your teeth properly, then you wouldn't be in this predicament.
- You're certain then?
- If that's how you feel, let it go then.
- I was much fitter back then.
- She used to holiday in Sri Lanka as it was then known.
- The schedule will be completed before then.
- It was the responsibility of the then team captain to account for the trophies in the cabinet. (In this example, then is an adjective.)
ThanThe word than introduces a comparison. It is most often seen with comparatives and words like more, less and fewer.
- Craig is smarter than Paul. (Smarter is a comparative.)
- Money is better than poverty, if only for financial reasons. (Woody Allen) (Better is a comparative.)
- Russia is even more spacious than Canada. (More spacious is a comparative.)
- I have less space than you, but I also have fewer workers than you.
A Quick Test
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Those with English as a second language are particularly prone to confusing than and then. A native English speaker confusing these words constitutes a grammatical howler.
COMPARISONS INVOLVING TIMEComparisons involving time tend to attract this error. Remember, use than for comparisons, including those involving time.
- Winter is later then autumn.
- Winter is later than autumn.