Than versus then is a common question. Many people do not understand the difference. The error is more easily overlooked in spoken English, because the difference between the two words is barely heard. In written English however, the error is very visible. We do not want you to be one of those sad people unable to discern than versus then. Here are a few useful tips to prevent you from having to suffer that particular humiliation.
Then is used when speaking about time and consequences.
a. Earl Grantham walks with the dog, and then he dresses for dinner.
b. If Thomas asks Daisy to the fair, then William will be disappointed.
Than is used for comparisons.
c. Lady Edith has fewer advantages than Lady Mary.
Sometimes substituting one for the other changes the meaning of sentence.
d. Mrs. Crawley would rather get a stick in the eye than have tea with the Dowager Countess.
e. Mrs. Crawley would rather get a stick in the eye, then have tea with the Dowager Countess.
Writers make the then/than mistake often when typing. Perhaps that’s because the words are pronounced very similarly and the writers are tripped up while taking dictation from their inner muses. Spell check doesn’t help, as both are correct spellings, even if used incorrectly. The two meanings are distinctly different though, and it is a major faux pas that must be avoided.
So, every time you see then or than while editing, a little red flag should pop up, alerting you to make sure you have the right one.
- DO pay extra attention to uses of then and than. Mixing them up is a very common mistake.
- DO know thyself. Every writer and editor has a few Achilles’ heels. Give the attention that is due when you see words and phrases that have flummoxed you in the past.
Have a marketing challenge? Call Kim Landry at 484-829-0021 or email [email protected].