Then vs. Than — Do you know when to use each?

In English, there are words that differ in a single sound, but this apparently small difference makes a huge one, in the meaning of these words. One of the most popular homophones is definitely “then and than.”

Jagoda Jovanovic
Jagoda Jovanovic
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Once you start learning the English language you can’t even imagine how many obstacles you are going to face through this journey. From a very difficult grammar for some people to a very challenging pronunciation for others, the English language became a need in this modern world.

What confuses people a lot are “word pairs” or “homophones”. In English, there are words that differ in a single sound, but this apparently small difference makes a huge one, in the meaning of these words. One of the most popular homophones is definitely “then and than.”

Although when we are speaking not everyone notices if we make mistakes in pronunciation, but when it comes to writing, people take a break here with a question mark above their heads — should I write here “then” or “than”?

Here we will take a look at both of them and explain some rules that will help you to remember once and for all when to use each of them.

Then

The very important thing to remember about this word is its pronunciation /ðen/. It differs from Than in a sound /e/. The second thing, of course, is meaning. Then can be used as an adjective, adverb, or a noun. Then indicates the time or a consequence, as we can see in the following examples:

Life was harder then because none of us had a job.
Things were different back then.
First I will take a coffee and then order breakfast.
The then-president.

Then we use in phrases like: just then, back then, and after the words like since and before. We can also use it in phrases like every now and then and even then.

Than

Now let’s take a look at Than. The first thing to notice that makes a difference is pronunciation. We do pronounce it differently, /ðæn/. Pay attention to this little sound in the middle, we make it with a round mouth. But it also has an utterly different meaning. Than usually serves as a conjunction or preposition, when we want to make comparisons. We can hear it in phrases such as: smaller than, taller than, smoother than, further than... And this word usually follows: other, rather, less and more.

Take a look at Than in some sentences:

I am older than him.
He loves her more than she loves him.
The party was better than I’ve expected.

Then, you guys better be sure to learn these small tips. Better late than never, right?

Some more examples to take with you:

Pulp Fiction (1994)
The Prestige (2006)
The Prestige (2006)
Hacksaw Ridge (2016)
EnglishWhich is correct

Jagoda Jovanovic

Hi! I'm Jagoda Jovanovic, certified English tutor with more than 3 years of experience. If you are up for your own lesson ideas and you only need a tutor to implement them, feel free to contact me!

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