Then vs. Than: The Difference

Many English learners and even native speakers often confuse the words then and than. They sound very similar, but they have completely different meanings and uses. In this article, we will explain how to use then and than correctly, with examples and tips to help you remember the difference.

Difference between Then and Than

Understanding the context in which then and then are used is important to avoid mixing them up in sentences, as they serve distinct purposes despite their similar appearance.

“Then”: “Then” primarily functions as an adverb. It denotes time or sequence of events. It refers to a specific moment in the past or future, indicating what happens next, or happened after a particular occurrence. For example:

  • “Back then, smartphones were not as prevalent as they are today.” (Referring to a specific time in the past)
  • “Finish your homework, and then you can watch TV.” (Indicating a sequence of events, with “then” denoting what happens next)

“Than”: On the other hand, “than” is a conjunction used to compare things, highlighting differences between two things or ideas. It highlights differences in qualities, quantities, or preferences. For example:

  • “She is taller than her brother.” (Comparing the height of two individuals)
  • “I would rather walk than take the bus.” (Presenting a preference or choice between two options)

Then vs. Than

Here’s a simplified table highlighting the basic differences between Then and Than:

AspectThenThan
TypeAdverbConjunction
UseShows order or timeFor comparing things or expressing a choice
ExampleHe finished homework, then playedI have more books than you
When UsedFor events in sequenceFor comparing things or expressing choice
Then vs. Than

When to Use Then

“Then” is a versatile word in English that can be used to indicate time, consequence, or transition. Here are some examples of when to use “then“:

  1. Sequential Time: Use “then” to show the order of events or actions.
    • I woke up early, then I went for a run.
    • Daisy finished her homework, then she watched TV.
  2. Consequence or Result: “Then” can indicate a consequence of an action or situation.
    • If you don’t study, then you might fail the exam.
    • He missed the bus, then he arrived late for the meeting.
  3. As a Transition: Use “then” to transition between ideas or steps in a process.
    • First, preheat the oven. Then, mix the ingredients.
    • She practiced the piano diligently. Then, she performed at the concert.
  4. Conjunction: “Then” can function as a conjunction connecting two related ideas.
    • She finished her work, then she went home.

Remember, the usage of “then” depends on the context and the structure of the sentence, so its placement may vary accordingly.

When to Use Than

“Than” is a conjunction used to compare things, indicating one thing is better, smaller, greater, or different from another. Below are examples of when to use “than”:

  • Comparing Differences in Quality or Quantity:
    • She is taller than her brother.
    • This book is more interesting than the last one.
    • He has more experience than his colleagues.
  • Comparing Preferences or Choices:
    • I’d rather go for a walk than watch TV.
    • She prefers tea rather than coffee.
    • He’d rather study at home than at the library.
  • Comparing Actions or Outcomes:
    • He would do anything rather than disappoint his parents.
    • They ran faster than expected.
    • She’d eat at home rather than spend money on expensive restaurants.
  • Comparing Conditions or Situations:
    • It’s better to arrive early than to be late.
    • I’d prefer to stay home than go out in this weather.
    • She’d rather listen to music than talk to anyone right now.
  • With Comparative Adjectives and Adverbs:
    • She’s more talented than I am.
    • He sings better than his sister.
    • This car drives more smoothly than the old one.

How to Use Then in a Sentence: Proper Placement and Usage

The placement of “then” in a sentence can vary depending on its function. Here are some common positions for using “then”:

  1. Beginning of a sentence: “Then” can initiate a sentence to signal what happens next in a sequence of events.
    • Then, she entered the room and greeted everyone.
    • Then, the alarm rang, signaling the end of the class.
  2. Between clauses or sentences: Use “then” to connect separate actions or events in a sequence.
    • He finished his meal, then he paid the bill, and left the restaurant.
    • She studied for hours, then she took a break to relax.
  3. After an action or condition: “Then” can be used to show the result or consequence of a previous action or situation.
    • If it’s raining, then we’ll stay indoors.
    • Unless he finishes his work, then he can’t go out.
  4. Between steps or instructions: “Then” indicates the next step or action in a sequence or process.
    • First, mix the ingredients. Then, bake the cake for 30 minutes.
    • She packed her bags, then she called a taxi to go to the airport.
  5. To introduce a contrasting element: “Then” can contrast two different situations or events.
    • He said he was busy, then he went out with his friends.
    • She claimed she didn’t have money, then she bought an expensive dress.
  6. In the middle of a sentence to indicate a specific time or consequence:
    • He finished the project and then submitted it online.
    • She waited for an hour, then decided to leave.

How to Use Than in a Sentence: Proper Placement and Usage

The placement of “than” in a sentence depends on the structure of the comparative statement. Here are different ways “than” is placed in sentences based on its function:

  1. Directly following the comparative adjective or adverb: Use “than” immediately after the comparative word.
    • She is taller than her brother.
    • This book is more interesting than the last one.
    • She works harder than her colleagues.
  2. Introducing the second element of comparison: When comparing longer phrases or clauses, “than” typically precedes the second part of the comparison.
    • He’d rather listen to music than talk to anyone right now.
    • I’d prefer to stay home than go out in this weather.
    • It’s better to arrive early than to be late.
  3. Within the structure of a preference expression: “Than” is used to indicate a choice or preference.
    • I’d rather go for a walk than watch TV.
    • She prefers tea rather than coffee.
    • He’d rather study at home than at the library.

Then Vs. Than Sentence Examples

  • I would rather go to the beach than stay indoors all day.
  • He was taller than his friend by a few inches.
  • First, finish your chores, and then you can play video games.
  • The cat napped for an hour, and then it chased after a butterfly.
  • He is more experienced than any other candidate in the job interview.
  • Start with the basics, and then move on to the advanced topics.
  • Let’s finish the project first, and then we can celebrate.
  • He is more interested in science than in literature.
  • She completed the marathon, and then she treated herself to a delicious meal.
  • I would rather go for a run than sit at my desk all day.
  • Start with the appetizers, and then order the main course.
  • We went to the museum first, and then we explored the park.

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