Word Choice: Different Than, Different To, or Different From?
  • 2-minute read
  • 12th December 2019

Word Choice: Different Than, Different To, or Different From?

Have you ever noticed that American English is different than British English? But wait! Is that last sentence written correctly? Should it be “different from” or “different to”? We’re asked this question often here at Proofreading Towers, so we’ve prepared a quick guide to help you with your work.

Different Options

“Than,” “to,” and “from” can all be used as prepositions. They specify a relationship between words in a sentence. When they follow the word “different,” for example, all these terms suggest a comparison between two things that aren’t alike. For example, we could say:

Apples are different than oranges.

Here, we’re simply saying that apples and oranges are distinct from one another. But we could also write this sentence using “to” or “from”:

Apples are different to oranges.

Apples are different from oranges.

Each sentence here means the same, so most of the time these terms are interchangeable. But only “from” and “than” are standard in US English. For more on the regional differences, check out our advice below.

Regional Differences

The biggest difference between these terms is between “different than” (standard in American English) and “different to” (standard in British English). Meanwhile, “different from” is common in both dialects.

Generally, then,  you’ll want to avoid “different to” in your writing. But either “than” or “from” will be fine if you’re writing for US-based readers.

If you do use “different to” or “different than,” though, remember they may be non-standard in certain parts of the world (as illustrated below).

Phrase

American English

British English

Different than…

Different from…

Different to…

 = Standard,  = Non-standard

Summary: Different Than, To, or From?

You can use “than,” “to,” or “from” after the word “different” to make a comparison. In this context, each word does the same thing (i.e., link two things that are being compared).

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However, “different than” is more common than “different to” in US English, and “different from” is more common than either in all dialects.

As a result, we suggest using “different from” or  “different than” for US English. But you may want to favor “different from” if you need your writing to read smoothly for people from outside the USA as well.

Comments (4)
asmaa
2nd April 2021 at 21:10
good job thanks
    Murtala Alade Adedokun
    24th September 2021 at 00:57
    Brief and beneficial.
Janet Odden
9th July 2021 at 10:40
At school in the '60s I was taught it was 'different from' as you are moving things apart. whereas 'similar to' is bring things together and 'compare with' as the things are looked at on a level.
    Proofed
    12th July 2021 at 09:08
    Hi, Janet. As discussed, "different from" is standard in most dialects, but "different than" and "different to" are legitimate, too (albeit more regional in their usages).

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