Then vs. Than. What’s the Difference?

Detailed explanation of often confused words „then” and „than”.


‍Are you often confused about when to use “then” and “than”? If so, you’re not alone! Many people, even native English speakers, have difficulty distinguishing between these two words. Fortunately, with a few simple tips, you can master the difference between “then” and “than.” This article will cover the difference between “then” and “than” is, when to use each one, examples, some memory tricks to help remember the difference, and common mistakes.

American English ESL Lesson Plan

What’s the Difference Between “Then” and “Than”?

The confusion between “then” and “than” often comes from the fact that they are pronounced in a similar way. However, they are two very different words with different meanings and uses.

Put simply, “then” refers to time, while “than” is used to compare two things. Let's look at each of these words in more detail.

When to Use “Then”

“Then” is an adverb that is most often used to talk about things that happen at a particular time. It is used to connect events or ideas in time or order and can be used to introduce something that happens after another thing. For example:

  • I was tired, then I had a nap.
  • I went to the store, then I went home.

“Then” can also be used to mean “in addition” or “besides”. For example:

  • “I like chocolate, then I like ice cream.”
  • “I have a dog and then I have a cat.”

In these examples, “then” is used to add something else to the sentence.

When to Use “Than”

On the other hand, “than” is a conjunction used to compare two things. It is used to show the difference between two things or to say that one thing is better or worse. For example:

  • “I am taller than my sister.”
  • “I like apples more than oranges.”

It is important to note that when two things are being compared with “than,” the sentence must contain the words “more” or “less.” For example:

  • “I am more intelligent than my brother.”
  • “I like chocolate less than vanilla.”

Examples of “Then” and “Than”

Now that you know the difference between “then” and “than,” let’s look at some examples to help you understand how to use them correctly.

  • ”I walked to the store, then I bought some food. ”
  • ”I am smarter than my sister. ”
  • ”I went to the beach, then I went for a swim. ”
  • ”I am taller than my brother. ”
  • ”She went to bed, then she read a book. ”
  • ”I like chocolate more than vanilla.”

Memory Tricks to Remember the Difference

If you’re having trouble remembering when to use “then” and “than,” here are a few memory tricks that can help:

  • “Then” indicates time, so remember the phrase “When then.”
  • “Than” is used to compare two things, so remember the phrase “Compare than.”

Common Mistakes

Mixing up “then” and “than” is a common mistake.

Here are some examples of using “than” when “then” should be used:

  • Incorrect: “I went to the store, than I went home.”
  • Correct: “I went to the store, then I went home.”

Here are some examples of using “then” when “than” should be used:

  • Incorrect: “I am taller then my sister.”
  • Correct: “I am taller than my sister.”

It’s important to remember that “than” is used to compare two things.

Tips for Learning ESL (English as a Second Language)

If you’re an ESL learner, here are a few tips for you to better grasp the difference between “then” and “than”:

  • Make sure to look at plenty of “then” and “than” examples in context.
  • Practice using “then” and “than” in your writing.
  • Work with an ESL teacher and engage in fun activities, like matching games or fill-in-the-blank exercises
  • Use the correct word in a sentence and try to figure out how using an incorrect work can change the meaning of a sentence

Final Thoughts: “Then” vs. “Than”

In conclusion, understanding the difference between “then” and “than” is essential for teaching and learning English. “Then” is an adverb used to describe a time or the order of events or actions, while “than” is a conjunction used to compare two or more things. Examples and memory tricks can help to understand and remember the difference between these two words. With practice and repetition, you will become more confident using “then” and “than.”


Date: January 9th, 2023

Rob - author of the article   Rob

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