Then vs. Than - What's the Difference?

Smart Students
You know your English!. Andrew Rich / Vetta / Getty Images

'Then' and 'than' are often confused in English. Here is an explanation with a follow-up quiz to help you understand the differences between these two commonly confused words.

Begin by reading the following sentences:

She thinks soccer is more interesting than football.
I'd like to first have lunch and then have a cup of coffee.

What's the difference between 'than' and 'then' in these two sentences

Using Than

In first sentence, 'than' is used to compare two items (...more interesting than...).

'Than' is used in the comparative form in English. Here are some more examples:

Living in the city is more exciting than living in the countryside. 
Tom has more responsibilities than Peter in this company.
I think that painting is more beautiful than this one.

'Than' is also used to state a preference when stating preferences with the form 'would rather'

S + would rather + verb + (object) + than + verb + (object)

I'd rather have Chinese food than eat Mexican food today.
She'd rather stay home and watch a movie than go out on the town.
Peter'd rather do homework than have fun.

Other important expressions using 'than' include expressions that refer to choices and differences between people, places and things.

  • other than - Other than Tom, I don't know who wants to come.
  • different than - You'll find that learning Japanese is different than learning English.
  • no one / nowhere / nothing else than - You should be nowhere else than here in every moment. 
  • anyone / anywhere / anything else than - I'd like to be anywhere but here at the moment. 
  • better than - He can play tennis better than John. 

Using Then

'Then' refers to the order in which things happen. In the second example sentence, the person would first like to have lunch, and, after that (then), have a cup of coffee.

... have lunch and then have a cup of coffee.

'Then' can also be used to refer to a logical result. For example:

If you need to study, then go and study. 

More examples of 'then' to express succession.

First, we'll discuss last quarter's business. Then, we'll focus on the new marketing campaign.
I usually begin my day with a shower, then I have breakfast. 

Then vs. Than - Pronunciation

'Then' and 'than' sound very similar but are slightly different. 'Than' has an 'a' sound as in the word 'cat', or 'tap'. 'Then' has an open 'e' sound as in 'pet' or 'let'.

Read the sentence concentrating on keeping the vowel 'a' sound the same in each word.

Pat grabbed his cat that was fatter than the bat.

Read the next sentence focusing on keeping the 'e' open in each word.

Meg set a check on the desk and then met with Chet.

Then vs. Than - Key Points

'Then' is used as a time expression to speak about when something happens.

I'll see you then.
I'll be at the party. 
We can speak then.

'Than' is used for comparisons between two people, places or things. 

He's lived here longer than I have.
His skills are very different than mine.
New York is much more cosmopolitan than Portland. 

Then vs. Than Quiz

Do you understand the rules?

Practice by using the form in these sentences:

  1. Art class is easier _____ math for me.
  2. Let's study first and _____ go for a jog.
  3. I prefer to work hard in the morning and _____ take it easy during the rest of the day.
  4. I'm afraid I'd rather be nowhere else _____ here at home.
  5. My brother is happier now _____ when he was ten years younger.
  6. Jane gets up, has a shower and has coffee. _____, she drives to work.
  7. Does this shirt look better on me _____ that shirt?
  8. Other _____ Mary, I don't anyone is coming over tonight.
  9. Study hard for the test and _____ pass it.
  10. If you want to understand the grammar, _____ you need to ask a question.

Quiz Answers

  1. than - comparative form
  2. then - sequence of actions
  3. then - sequence of actions
  4. than - used with the expression 'nowhere else than'
  5. than - comparing time periods
  6. then - showing a sequence of actions
  1. than - used with the expression 'better than' in the comparative form of 'good'
  2. than - used with the expression 'other than' 
  3. then - used to show that something must be done first before something else can happen
  4. then - used to show a logical result

 

More Common Mistakes Pages

Format
mla apa chicago
Your Citation
Beare, Kenneth. "Then vs. Than - What's the Difference?" ThoughtCo, Apr. 4, 2017, thoughtco.com/then-vs-than-whats-the-difference-1210752. Beare, Kenneth. (2017, April 4). Then vs. Than - What's the Difference? Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/then-vs-than-whats-the-difference-1210752 Beare, Kenneth. "Then vs. Than - What's the Difference?" ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/then-vs-than-whats-the-difference-1210752 (accessed January 16, 2018).