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Then vs. Than

The words Then and Than might sound the same, but have different meanings and different spellings. In this Grammar.com article, you will learn the differences between these two confusing words.

The policeman’s strategy was better than the burglar’s so he waited for him to make a move first and then arrested him.

Did you notice than and then in the above sentence? Do you sometimes get confused when to use which than? No worries! Today we will unburden you from this confusion as we will explain the meanings and usage of both than and then with examples.

Then as an adverb:

Then is used in situations quoting time like “She was gone for shopping then.” Then is also used for representing a point in time afterwards like “Sara won the first and then the second game.” Therefore or in that case is also sometimes denoted by then like “If that’s what you want, then I can’t help you.” When it is used at the end of the sentence it emphasize on the interference drawn like “So you came then.” Sometimes it is also used to finish off a sentence, “See you later then.”

What will you do then?

Than as conjunction:

Than with an a can be used as a conjunction or sometimes as a preposition in sentences. When you introduce a second element in comparison to the first one, you use than. “He is much smarter than his friend.” When presenting a contrast or exception to the regular objects in an expression, than is utilized. “He lost everything other than his cellphone.” Than is also sometimes used in expressions where it is implied that one thing happened immediately after another. “The work was scarcely completed than it was abandoned.”

Can you ride better than me?

You must be clear about the meanings of both the words but still worried about confusing one than for the other in writing. To help you distinguish between the two words you have to first remember that, than with an a, does not have a one word synonym which can be used in its place. Try to replace than in the following sentence:

She has got a better job than me.

Could you find the right word in your mind palace to substitute than in the above example? It isn’t your mind palace’s fault, there just isn’t a word with the same meaning as than.

On the other hand, then with an e has various one word synonyms which can replace it in a sentence. Try this example:

What happened then, I can’t tell.

Were you able to come up with a suitable word to replace then in the above example? I’m sure you were. It can be written as:

What happened next, I can’t tell.

Then also have some phrases which can substitute it like at that time, in addition and as well etc. Try the same example again:

What happened after that, I can’t tell.

The exception in this synonym distinction of than and then is when then is used in if – then clauses, in that case you just have to work your mind a little and remember that in an if – then clause, then with an e is always used.

Then vs. than:

Then with an e is always used as an adverb to describe a time or sequence of a thing in a sentence. ‘Sara went to the station and then boarded a train to Paris’ cannot be written as ‘Sara went to the station and than boarded a train to Paris’. Than with an a, in contrast, is required to serve the function of a conjunction or preposition in a sentence. Mike rallied against Trump rather than voting for him.

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"Then vs. Than." Grammar.com. STANDS4 LLC, 2017. Web. 20 Nov. 2017. <http://www.grammar.com/then_vs._than>.

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