The four-letter words “then” and “than” have confused even confident English speakers time and again. They sound exactly the same, and even the spellings are almost similar. They are like identical twins. But there also exist difference between Than and Then.
“Than” and “then” are some of the many homophones that people often misuse. You might think they are the same linguistic workhorses and functions the same way, but you are completely mistaken. Both the words have different characteristics.
Let us dig in deeper and get a hold of their differences.
Than vs Then – Difference
The words “than” and “then” sound similar, and their spellings are also almost the same except for the E in Then and A in Than. But both of them have different meanings and functionality. “Than” is used as a conjunction and preposition, while “Then” is used as an adverb, noun, and adjective.
“Than” as a conjunction is used to connect two nouns or clauses. We use “than” when we are showing a contrast between two things or comparing them. It is used to present a rejected option or the second part of an uneven comparison. “Than” is also used to talk about something relating to time. It can express something that happens immediately after something else.
“Than” is also used as a preposition and is usually followed by a noun or a number. Prepositions are used to connect words in a sentence. It can mean in relation to.
“Sam likes chocolates more than Sean does.”
Here, “than” is used as a conjunction to show a comparison between two people.
“No sooner had I described the topic than an idea came to mind.”
Here, “than” is used to express something that happened right after something else.
“A team of more than 5 members has participated.”
Here, “than” is used as a preposition followed by a number expressing a relation.
“Than” is also present in many idioms. It is usually applied for feature comparisons or in negative sentences.
“More dead than alive.”
“Then” as an adverb is usually used to talk about time. It refers to a point in time.
“Then” can also be defined in several other ways, such as expressing consequences, next in order of narration or position or enumeration, in addition, or in that case.
When “then” is used as an adjective, it expresses or describes a person’s status at a point in time. It can mean belonging to or existing at the mentioned time.
When “then” is used as a noun, it expresses “that time”.
“Back then, we had a lot of fun.”
Here, “then” as an adverb refers to a particular point in time.
“If you don’t like vanilla, then you should try chocolate.”
Here, “then” expresses a consequential relation.
“The then-prime minister, Rajiv Gandhi passed away.”
Here, “then” as an adjective describes a state at a certain point in time.
Thus, we see that it is not impossible to distinguish between the two identical words i.e. Than and Then. Both have their unique characteristics, and it is very important to adhere to them.