Then vs. Than | Explanation & Examples
  • 2-minute read
  • 24th June 2023

Then vs. Than | Explanation & Examples

Then and than are two of the most commonly used words in English. They also sound almost identical yet have completely different meanings – making it a little tricky sometimes to know which one to use. In this post, we’ll outline the differences between than and then and provide helpful examples to demonstrate the use of each word.

When to Use Then

In most cases, we use then as an adverb related to the passage of time. It can indicate a sequence of events:

She studied for her exams, and then she took a break.

He woke up, showered, and then had breakfast.

Then can also signify a consequence or result in an if–then structure:

If it rains, then we’ll stay indoors.

If you don’t study, then you might fail the test.

 Or we can use then to indicate a logical conclusion, using the same structure as above:

If you follow the instructions carefully, then you shouldn’t have any issues.

If it’s cold outside, then it’s best to wear a warm jacket.

In some specific cases, we use then as a noun or an adjective:

Noun: Back then, life was different.

Adjective: The then-mayor signed the bill last year.

When to Use Than

Than is a conjunction or preposition we use to demonstrate contrast. For example, we can use it to establish a comparison between two things, people, or ideas:

She is taller than her classmate.

My sister made more money than I did last year.

Or than can draw a time comparison:

She arrived earlier than expected.

The meeting will start no later than 9 a.m.

We can also use than to express a preference:

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I’d rather go for a walk than stay indoors.

She would rather have tea than coffee.

Or than can indicate an exception or exclusion:

We invited everyone to the party, other than Jake.

I have visited every country in Europe, other than Spain.

Word Choice: Then or Than?

If you’re unsure of which word to use, consider the context and intended meaning of the sentence:

·  Then relates to time, a sequence, a consequence, or a logical conclusion.

·  Than is used for comparisons and highlighting differences or contrasts.

So remember: if you’re making a comparison of some kind or stating an exception, than is likely the correct choice. If you’re discussing issues related to time, such as a sequence of events or an action and its consequence, then is the right word. When in doubt, remember that you can usually substitute then for words such as at that time, next, and consequently, but you can’t easily substitute another word or phrase for than.

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