Then or Than | Difference & Example Sentences

Then and than are two commonly confused words with different meanings and grammatical roles.

  • Then (pronounced with a short ‘e’ sound) refers to time. It’s typically an adverb, but it’s also used as a noun meaning ‘that time’ and as an adjective referring to a previous status.
  • Than (pronounced with a short ‘a’ sound) is used to express comparison. Grammatically, it usually functions as a conjunction, but sometimes it’s a preposition.
Examples: ‘Then’ in a sentence Examples: ‘Than’ in a sentence
Follow the road for another mile, and then take the exit. Brie is a better golfer than you.
I was working in a bookstore then. I often like planning a holiday more than I like the holiday itself.

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‘Then’ to indicate time

Then can be used as an adverb to place events or things in order. It can be used to refer to both past and future points in time.

Examples: ‘Then’ as an adverb
The population of New York was less than one million then.

Cook the turkey slowly, and then let it rest for thirty minutes before serving.

We will take a train to the coast and then rent a car.

Then can be used as a noun to mean ‘that time’. Again, this can refer to the past or future.

Example: ‘Then’ to mean ‘that time’
Since then, Stan has drifted away from the group.

Until then, we’ll just have to hope for the best.

Then can also be used as an adjective to refer to a previous status or to indicate that something belongs to a specific time.

Example: ‘Then’ as an adjective
The then chairman was accused of fraud.

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Other uses of ‘then’

Then can also be used to express a condition or consequence, meaning the same as ‘in that case’. It is also used in combination with ‘if’ to express a condition.

Example: ‘Then’ to express condition or consequence
‘I’m not feeling well’, I said. ‘Then you should rest for a while’, said Jana.

If you are allergic to eggs, then you shouldn’t have ordered an omelet.

It can also be used in informal speech and writing to acknowledge that an agreement has been made (e.g., ‘all right then’, ‘okay then’).

‘Than’ for comparison

Than is a conjunction or preposition used to compare two or more things.

Examples: ‘Than’ in a sentence
I would rather travel by car than by plane.

My brother plays the piano more than I do.

Note
It’s common in informal speech and writing to use the objective case for pronouns (e.g., me, her, us) in the second clause of a comparison. This is correct if the pronoun functions as a second object of the earlier verb, but if it functions as a second subject, you need a nominative pronoun (e.g., I, she, we).

In formal writing, it’s important to get this right, or your meaning could be confused:

  • Ralph likes school more than [he likes] me.
  • Ralph likes school more than I [like school].

‘Other than’ or ‘other then’

Other than is a common expression used to mean ‘besides‘, ‘except for’, or ‘apart from’. ‘Other then’ is never correct.

Example: ‘Other than’ in a sentence
Tristan doesn’t like his university classes, other than psychology.

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‘More then’ or ‘more than’

More than is a common expression meaning ‘very’ or ‘extremely’. It’s used to emphasise an attitude or emotion expressed by an adjective that comes after it.

Example: ‘More than’ in a sentence
Charlotte is more than willing to take care of her neighbour’s dog while they are away.

Worksheet: Than vs then

You can test your understanding of the difference between ‘then’ and ‘than’ with the worksheet below. Fill in either ‘then’ or ‘than’ in each sentence.

  1. I finished my bachelor’s degree, and _____ I began a master’s.
  2. Vincent used to swim when he was in school, but he hasn’t swum since _____.
  3. Isabella is friendlier _____ Leon.
  4. The _____ secretary was more organised _____ the current secretary.
  5. Other _____ Mary, we’re all ready to go.
  1. I finished my bachelor’s degree, and then I began a master’s.
    • ‘Then’ is used here as an adverb to place events in order. In this instance, it is used to refer to the past.
  1. Vincent used to swim when he was in school, but he hasn’t swum since then.
    • Here, ‘then’ is used as a noun to mean ‘that time’.
  1. Isabella is friendlier than Leon.
    • ‘Than’ can be used as a conjunction to compare two or more things.
  1. The then secretary was more organised than the current secretary.
    • In the first instance, ‘then’ is used as an adjective to refer to a previous status. In the second instance, ‘than’ is used for comparison.
  1. Other than Mary, we’re all ready to go.
    • Here, ‘than’ is used to complete the expression ‘other than’, meaning ‘except for’.

    Other interesting language articles

    If you want to know more about commonly confused words, definitions, and differences between US and UK spellings, make sure to check out some of our other language articles with explanations, examples, and quizzes.

    Frequently asked questions about then vs than

    When do you use then vs than?

    Then and than are two commonly confused words with different meanings and grammatical roles.

    • Then (pronounced with a short ‘e’ sound) refers to time. It’s often an adverb, but it can also be used as a noun meaning ‘that time’ and as an adjective referring to a previous status.
    • Than (pronounced with a short ‘a’ sound) is used for comparisons. Grammatically, it usually functions as a conjunction, but sometimes it’s a preposition.
    Examples: Then in a sentence Examples: Than in a sentence
    Mix the dry ingredients first, and then add the wet ingredients. Max is a better saxophonist than you.
    I was working as a teacher then. I usually like coaching a team more than I like playing soccer myself.
    Is it better than or better then?

    Then and than are two commonly confused words. In the context of ‘better than’, you use ‘than’ with an ‘a’.

    • Julie is better than Jesse.
    • I’d rather spend my time with you than with him.
    • I understand Eoghan’s point of view better than Claudia’s.

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    Ryan, E. (2022, October 20). Then or Than | Difference & Example Sentences. Scribbr. Retrieved 10 July 2024, from https://www.scribbr.co.uk/frequently-confused-words/then-or-than/

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    Eoghan Ryan

    Eoghan has a lot of experience with theses and dissertations at bachelor's, MA, and PhD level. He has taught university English courses, helping students to improve their research and writing.