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1 min read
Collin O'Brien
February 21, 2022
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1 min read

The difference between "than" and "then"

This article clarifies the difference between "than" and "then." It provides usage examples, highlighting common misunderstandings and offering guidance for correct application in various contexts.
The difference between "than" and "then"

The difference between "than" and "then"

“Than” compares things, and “then” describes something that happens at a later point in time. They sound similar and were even written the same way until the 1700s. But not anymore, thank goodness!

Usage of "than" explained

“Than” shows a comparison and is sandwiched on both sides by other words.

  • A giraffe is bigger than a weasel.
  • A pickle tastes better than a shoe.


“Than” also appears in well-known idioms.

  • It's better to give than to receive.
  • Actions speak louder than words.
  • His bark is worse than his bite.


Problems arise in English when a pronoun follows “than.” Is it "She is taller than I" or "She is taller than me"? If you use "taller than I," you are correct! Because of the 'invisible' verb in "She is taller than I (am)," you use "I" and not "me." (If that sounds a bit confusing, don't worry. Over the years, it has become common to save the phrase "taller than I" for formal texts and to use "taller than me" informally.)

How to use "then" correctly

Now let's talk about "then." It’s not there to compare anything; it just moves things forward. “Then” can be used like "next," "at a particular time," or "in that case." In the case of the last meaning, it often comes after "if," as in, "If we write about cats, then we must write about dogs."


A few more examples:

  • She got up at 4 a.m. to practice, then went to school, then got back in the pool to practice some more. (Washington Post)
  • Moun was treated by prison medical staff, then taken to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead. (Los Angeles Times)
  • Getting these imports at a cheaper price, then, is good news. (US News)



That's it for now on the subject of "than" vs. "then," and to sign off: this lady would have been better off reading our article BEFORE her tattoo appointment.


                                     "A love thicker, then blood"

It should actually read, "A love thicker than blood." Well then, that’s quite embarrassing.