I have a tendency to over think certain grammar rules. Then vs. than is one of those grammar rules that I think I’ve nailed down, but always end up double checking after over thinking it for ten minutes. To save you time and confusion, here are a few ways to remember the correct usage:
“Then” is used to describe an element of time and is used mostly as an adverb.
- Subsequently or afterwards. Example: “We worked in the yard for a few hours and then went to the movies.”
- As a consequence or in that case. Example: “If you don’t clean your room, then you can’t go to the movies.”
- At that time or that time. Example: “We can first take care of mulching the flower beds then we can go to the movies.”
Then is always used in the construction “if … then.” For example, “If he had just listened to me in the first place, then he wouldn’t have tried using that cheap paint on the walls.”
“Than” conveys a comparison and is often used with comparative words and phrases like more, less, and fewer.
Example #1: “He paid more money for his shoes than she did for hers.”
Example #2: “The sunsets in Hawaii are better than sunsets anywhere else in the world.”
Than = A = Comparison
Then = E = Time
As with any rule, there are exceptions. For example, “I usually need to go to sleep no later than 10 p.m.” I offer this quick tip with its requisite grain of salt.
For other great resources on this grammar rule, I direct you to CM Punk’s Grammar Slam on then vs. than, or my other favorite grammar poster from The Oatmeal, “Ten Words You Need to Stop Misspelling.”
Have a grammar rule you’d like me to explore? Drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Author Catherine Spicer is a manager of customer content services at PR Newswire.