5 Minute Grammar Lesson ~ Then or Than?


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Do you know when to use THEN or THAN correctly? They sound the same. They look very similar. But they mean two completely different things. Here’s what you need to know about the homophones then and than. The difference is really quite simple.

then or than? when to use which word

5 Minute Grammar Lesson ~ Then or Than?

What is the difference between “then” and “than”?

“Then” and “than” have two totally different words in the English language, have distinct meanings and functions. Generally speaking, “Then” is an adverb. It refers to a specific time or sequence of events. On the other hand, “than” is generally a conjunction used to make some kind of comparison between two different things or to express a preference for one thing over another.

How to Use the Word THEN

“Then” can be used to refer to a moment in the past, present, or future.

THEN deals with time, or it shows a sequence.

  • I want you to take a bath and THEN go to bed.
  • First you must eat your peas. THEN you can have dessert.
  • Take a left on First Street, and THEN a right on Pine Avenue.
  • I went to the store, and THEN I came home.
  • I’ll finish this task, THEN take a break.

How to Use the Word THAN

“Than,” on the other hand, is often used with comparative adjectives or adverbs, such as “bigger than,” “faster than,” or “more intelligent than.”

If you are comparing two things, use THAN.

  • Anna is taller THAN Ben.
  • The big house costs more THAN the little house.
  • Clothes from the Gap cost more THAN clothes from Goodwill.
  • The blue car is faster than the red car.
  • I prefer chocolate ice cream more than vanilla.

Examples of Correct vs Incorrect usage of THEN and THAN

To better understand the difference between “then” and “than,” let’s look at some examples of correct usage!

Example 1: Then or Than

Incorrect: I would rather go to the park then the beach.

Correct: I would rather go to the park than the beach.

In this example, “than” is used to compare going to the park versus going to the beach. Using “then” would not make sense in this context, as it does not express a comparison.

Example 2: Then or Than

Incorrect: If it rains tomorrow, than we will stay inside.

Correct: If it rains tomorrow, then we will stay inside.

In this example, “then” is not necessary, as it does not add any additional meaning to the sentence. The correct sentence communicates the same idea without the unnecessary word.

Example 3: Than or Then

Incorrect: He was taller then his brother.

Correct: He was taller than his brother.

In this example, “than” is used to compare the height of two people. Using “then” would not make sense, as it does not make a comparison.

How to Remember the Difference Between THEN and THAN

Beyond just committing it to memory that “Then” refers to time or sequence, and “than” is used for comparison, here is one more trick that might be helpful to remember the difference between these two commonly misused homophones.

Here’s a mnemonic memory aid that might help:

“thEn” has an “E” for “Event” (referring to time or sequence)

“thAn” has an “A” for Comparison

Quiz Yourself! Did you Learn the Difference Between Then and Than?

Take a look under the next picture to learn which are wrong and which are correct.

  1. I’ll go to the store then we can go to the park.
  2. She’s taller then me.
  3. He’d rather read a book than watch TV.
  4. If you’re hungry, then you should eat something.
  5. I have more pencils then you.
  6. First, we’ll eat dinner then we’ll watch a movie.
  7. This apple is better than that one.
  8. I’ll meet you at the coffee shop then we can go for a walk.
  9. She was more tired then she realized.
  10. He’d rather go to the beach than the pool.
  11. I’ll finish my homework then I can relax.
  12. This song is slower then the last one.
  13. If you finish your chores, then you can go outside.
  14. He’s a better writer than she is.
  15. I’ll have a salad then a slice of cake for dessert.
  16. He was taller then his brother.
  17. She’d rather listen to classical music than rap.
  18. I’ll wait for you in the lobby then we can go together.
  19. This car is more expensive then that one.
  20. If you’re done with your work, then you can leave early.
5 Minute Grammar Lesson ~ Then? or Than?
  1. correct
  2. incorrect
  3. correct
  4. correct
  5. incorrect
  6. correct
  7. correct
  8. correct
  9. incorrect
  10. incorrect
  11. correct
  12. incorrect
  13. correct
  14. correct
  15. correct
  16. incorrect
  17. correct
  18. correct
  19. incorrect
  20. correct

And that’s all there is to THEN and THAN.

Got it? 🙂

Until next time, Grammarians…

If you’re looking for helpful grammar resources, here are my top picks:

Strunk & White Elements of Style

The Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation 

Eats, Shoots, and Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation 

The Grammar Girl’s Quick & Dirty Tips for Better Writing

More Grammar Posts You Might Like:

Your Welcome vs You’re Welcome

5 Minute Grammar Lesson – It’s? or its? or Its’?

5 Minute Grammar Lesson – Could Care Less? or Couldn’t Care Less?

Bias? or Biased?

Is it Do to or Due to (Weekly 5 Minute Grammar Lesson)

About Michelle Marine

Michelle Marine is the author of How to Raise Chickens for Meat, a long-time green-living enthusiast, and rural Iowa mom of four. She empowers families to grow and eat seasonal, local foods; to reduce their ecological footprint; and to come together through impactful travel.

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  1. I actually printed this out and taped it up by my computer! While I have no problem with other commonly misused words, for some reason I just can’t seem to remember which of these to use! So thank you.:)

  2. This is another discussion my daughter and I had recently. Apparently this difference was mentioned once when she was in regular school. Once. Really? Because children always catch onto things the first time. Right. My daughter then informed me she is glad to have a mom who is something of a grammar nazi. Hahaha.

    There are two things that bother me. One is the use of the word “conversate”. I’m pretty sure this is not a word. If it is, it shouldn’t be because when people use it, they sound uneducated. In case you have never had the dubious pleasure of hearing somebody use this word, it is used instead of “converse”: I enjoyed conversating with her.

    The second one is “these ones”. I don’t know if this considered wrong or improper. All I know is it grates on my ears. Why can’t they just say “these”? /rant