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The words than and then sound very similar. Confusing them is one of the most common grammar errors. In this article, we will discuss the difference between these two words.
What’s the Difference?
While these two words may sound similar and look alike, they have different uses, meanings, and spellings. The easiest way to remember the difference is that than is used for comparisons while then indicates time.
Non-native English speakers are prone to mixing up these two terms. Using them incorrectly can make your writing seem unprofessional and confusing to readers. Always remember to use then in sentences that contain a time-based sequence of events.
For example, say you want to convey that Casey left work early on a warm day and went to the store for a popsicle. You would write: “Then he went to the store for a popsicle.” If you need help with your grammar, try Grammarly. Its Premium version provides a document assessment and insights to improve your writing.
Then is a Conjunction
Many people get tripped up on then and than, especially when it comes to using these words in comparisons. But it’s actually not that difficult to keep them straight. Just remember that then is an adverb, meaning that it indicates time or sequence.
It usually follows a word like besides, before, after, next, or in. But it also functions as a conjunctive adverb that connects two clauses when it is separated by a semi-colon and a comma.
It can also highlight rejected differences and choices, following words like anywhere, other, different, or more. It is important to know when to use then to communicate a clear sense of order in your writing. You might even find that using a grammar checker helps!
Than is an Adverb
With a few exceptions, adverbs end in -ly and often look identical to adjectives. They are used to modify verbs, adjectives, and other adverbs, as well as other words in the sentence.
Then is generally used to express time and is used when making comparisons. It is also used with certain idioms and expressions, such as no sooner than.
Using then and than correctly can be difficult, especially since they have the same spelling and sound so similar. But with a little practice, you can easily remember when to use them. Just remember that than is generally used for time and comparisons, while subsequently indicates an ordered sequence of events. If you need help remembering the difference, try a writing tool like Grammarly. It can help you avoid common grammar mistakes and write better, more polished work.
Then is a Noun
Despite their close appearance in spelling and pronunciation, then and than have very different functions in a sentence. These two homophones are frequently mixed up by even native English speakers, and this confusion can lead to some very awkward phrasing in your writing.
When used correctly, then is an adverb that expresses time and sequence of events. It can also be used to make comparisons since it is a conjunction that links two subjects in the same clause. While than can be a noun, it is most often employed as a preposition to connect nouns or pronouns and indicate comparisons. Here are some examples of then in action:
Than is a Conjunction
English includes a lot of homophones and homonyms, which makes it difficult for both non-native speakers and native English speakers to keep the meanings of different words straight. One of the most common errors is confusing than with then, a conjunction used for comparisons that often involve time.
The best way to remember this difference is by focusing on the spelling of the words, since they have a different letter in each: than with an A is used for comparisons, and then with an E is a preposition that refers to time. You can also remember that than rhymes with when, which will help you remember to use it in a time-related context. Using this trick will ensure that you never confuse than and then again!