Grammar 12 min read

Than vs. Then: How to Tell the Difference Once and for all

Main Than vs. Then Takeaways:

  • Then and than are homophones. This means that they sound almost identical when spoken but have different meanings and spellings.
  • When you think of then, think of time.
  • When you think of than, think of comparisons.
  • Sometimes, than can be used to indicate time, but it is still typically a comparison.
  • On one hand, then can be an adverb, adjective, or noun.
  • On the other hand, than is a conjunction.
  • Use other than to indicate an exception.
  • Rather than is correct, but rather then is not.
  • Similarly, what better way…than is the correct structure, not what better way…then.
  • Older than and older then both work depending on context.
  • If/then is the correct Boolean expression (condition/action), not if/than.
Rather than talk your ear off, here’s all the information in a PDF.
Well, then, that was a strange movie.

Patrick is almost taller than Victor now!

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What better way to celebrate than with some ice cream!

If you decide to go to the lecture, then I’ll come with you.

Two panels. First panel shows the word then on top of a cloack. Second panel shows the word than and weighing scale.
Than and then are homophones. Then is used to indicate time, while than is usually used to indicate comparison.

Like affect vs. effect and to vs. too, than vs. then cause a lot of confusion. While many use these homophones interchangeably, they are not the same. Choosing the wrong word may mean that you don’t communicate your message clearly or correctly. In fact, than and then have different functions and meanings. But, there are, of course, some exceptions. Here, we’ll make sure you have everything you need to keep them straight, once and for all.

Then vs. Than Rule

Here’s the best way to tell the difference between then vs. than: associate then with time and than with comparisons. For example, use then for clarifying a sequence of events like writing a recipe or retelling a story (“We went to the supermarket and then headed home.”). Try remembering that the “e” in “then” stands for “events.” Conversely, use than when making a comparison (“We like going to the smaller shop nearby more than going to the supermarket.”). It’s important to note that you might see then used in comparisons, but still always about time (“Back then, we were less timid than we are now.”).

⚠️Than vs. Then Exception: Comparisons About Time

There is one exception. Sometimes, than can appear in comparisons about time. But in these cases, there is still a comparison involved.

He said he’d be at the meeting no later than 12 pm.

In this example, we’re dealing with time, but it’s secondary. The main function of than here remains the same: to make a comparison.

“He” is comparing his meeting time to 12 pm. He’ll be there no later than noon. In other words, other times are being compared to that one particular time-related target.

This may be confusing because we’re not drawing a 1:1 comparison between two individual things (he arrived earlier than I arrived); instead, we’re comparing one individual thing (12 pm) to a group (all times before 12 pm). Nevertheless, this is ultimately a comparison and as a result, should use then.

Grandma never paid this much for rent when she was young, but housing was more affordable back then.

What Type of Word is Then?

Then usually refers to time and can function as three types of speech. First, then is usually an adverb (“If you leave, then turn off the lights”). Second, then can be an adjective (“Jackie Kennedy, then Jacqueline Onassis, studied literature“). Finally, it can be a noun (“See you then?” or “We’ll wait until then”). Conversely, than is a conjunction and is for making comparisons (“This cake is sweeter than that brownie”).

How do you use Then?

Two boards showing examples of how to use the word than as a preposition and as a conjunction.
More examples of how to use “than” as a preposition in comparisons and as a conjunction that connects phrases and clauses.

Then vs. than breaks down to time vs. comparisons. For instance, there are several ways to use then, and they all indicate time. Most often, then is an adverb to help clarify a sequence of events (“Wash then dry the dishes”). What’s more, then helps describe a condition and then a consequence (“If it rains, then we’ll eat inside”). Additionally, then can also be an adjective (“The then CEO”). Finally, then can be a noun (“I’ll see you then!”).

Then can function as several parts of speech. Most often, it’s found working as an adverb in sentences where time is involved, but can also be an adjective or noun. Use then to:

  • Clarify a sequence or indicate the order in which certain actions occurred
  • Illustrate the relationship between several actions or items
  • Illustrate the consequences of a certain action
  • Indicate a previously held position

Clarify a Sequence (Adverb)

I went to the ATM and then used the cash to buy goodies at the thrift store.
First I’ll make the kids grilled cheese then figure out my own lunch.
When making banana bread, put in the flour, then the baking soda, then the salt and spices.
Let’s go to the park then grab some ice cream after.
In order from biggest to smallest, it goes elephant, then cow, then frog.

Describe the Relationship Between a Condition and Consequence (Adverb)

You could also use then to tell the reader when something caused something else to happen. Those examples typically frame the second action as a consequence of the first. In that case, you’ll probably use an if/then construction, making it clear the connection between the two actions.

If I stay up too late, then I won’t be alert for our huge work meeting in the morning.
I need to get some sleep, and then I will feel better.

Indicate a Previously Held Position (Adjective)

His then wife became ill about a month after they moved.

The then gubernatorial candidate clearly outlined his economic policies.

Remember, then can be an adjective, an adverb, or a noun. It’s most often used in sentences that are discussing time. You might be demonstrating a series of events, indicating a relationship between several actions.

Refer to Past or Future Time (Noun)

Gas was so cheap back then.
He left for New Mexico about a week ago. I haven’t seen him since then.

How do you use Than in a Sentence?

Than is a conjunction used for comparisons (“She is taller than I am”). However, then is an adverb, adjective, or noun related to time. A point of overlap is that than can appear in comparisons about time (“Please arrive no later than 9 a.m.”). Overall, than is important because it helps enrich the level of clarity and detail in your writing. When the relationship between the nouns, verbs, and adjectives in a sentence isn’t equal, you can use than to indicate that one takes precedence. This helps clarify status, physical stature, order of operations, and other important information.

Like other conjunctions, than is used to connect two clauses or two words within the same clause. Unlike other conjunctions, than is specifically used to compare and contrast.

Than helps us understand which is bigger, better, louder, or simply more favored. For example, using “than” is a good way to paint a picture of how items contrast each other.

Two panels. First panel shows a red ball and a green ball. Text reads: The red ball is bigger than the green ball. Than is used for camparisons. Second panel shows a cooking chef. He's saying
Than is used to indicate that one takes preference. Then can be an adjective, an adverb, or a noun. It’s often used in sentences that are discussing time.

Here are easy examples of how to use than vs. then in a sentence:

Molly was older than her friend but just as tech-savvy.
Because of my late night, I need coffee now more than ever.
The new pumpkin patch has way more games than the old one.
Silk fabrics are typically more expensive than cotton varieties.
Mercedes is less talkative than her sister.
He likes bananas far more than I do.
Well, then, I suggest you stop doing that.
Bertrand is crankier then her brother.
Other than cats, I love all pets.
Other then cheese, I don’t eat any dairy at breakfast.
Rumor has it he’s older than he says he is.

Is it Other Than or Other Then?

The correct phrase is “other than” and not “other then.” Use other than to indicate an exception (“Other than cats, she’s not a fan of animals”). The item or situation that comes directly after other than is the only example mentioned that doesn’t fit into the described scenario. In this way, this structure compares the exception to the rule. Therefore, “other than” expresses a comparison. Since we use than for comparisons and then for time, “other then” doesn’t make sense here.

Other than her straight As in math, Camilla is not the best student.
He works straight through from 9 to 5 (other than the 10 minutes he sets aside for lunch).
Other than turkey, Andica refuses to eat any kind of meat.
Use the phrase “other than” when describing exceptions. You can replace other than with alternatives like except for and besides.

How to use Less Than and More Than

How to use More Than in a Sentence

These wallpaper colors are more vibrant than the original ones.
For me, the vegetables at the farmers’ market are more flavorful than the ones I find at the supermarket.
Stephanie remarked that this podcast is much more entertaining than the one Will recommended.
I just realized that a coffee at the shop near my house is way more expensive than the one near your gym.
Do you find these examples more engaging than others you’ve read so far?

How to Use Less Than in a Sentence

The red sweater is less expensive than the brown one.
This new course is a lot less work than the one I took last semester.
I can’t believe I sold this collectible for less than I bought it!
Julia is convinced that the numbers were low because she invested less time in this project than in previous projects.
Did you find his latest proposal less convincing than the first?

Common Expressions: Than vs. Then

Is it Well Then or Well Than?

The correct phrase is “well then“, not “well than.” Use the phrase well then to switch topics. Similarly, use this phrase to start concluding a conversation or saying goodbye (Well then, I have to go. See you tomorrow!). Moreover, if a person says something strange or interesting, the response well then indicates that you’re surprised and unsure of what else to say. For this reason, some use it sarcastically.

One way to use well, then. Image shows a man and woman conversing. The man looks angry, saying
“Well then” is a phrase that you can use to imply that you want to change the topic when conversing with someone.

For instance, say your friend has a history of jumping and hitting their head. You might ask them whether they think that’s a good idea. When they reluctantly say, No…, you could respond with, Well then….?! to suggest they should know better.

If someone makes a strong display of emotion or a comment that you find surprising, provocative, or offensive comment, you might respond with well then.
”This chocolate I’m eating gives me a headache.” “Well, then, maybe you should stop eating it!”
“Well, then, I guess it’s time for me to get going.”
“I’m not going to change my mind.” “Well, then, I suppose it’s time for me to go.”

Notice that because “well” is an interjection in these examples, there’s often a comma between “well” and “then.”

Is it Rather Than or Then?

The correct phrase is “rather than“, not “rather then.” This is because than is most commonly used in comparisons (“He’s taller than her”) while then is more for discussing time (“Sal went to the store then stopped by the post office”). Since “rather than” compares two actions or choices, it only makes sense to use “rather than” instead of “rather then.”

Rather than risk missing the movie, Devindar left home extra early in case there was traffic.
Karen learned to appreciate people’s differences rather than throwing a fit when she didn’t get her way.
Rather than choosing just one type of ice cream, Amira opted for a triple-scoop cone containing three flavors.

Is it Older Than or Then?

Both “older than” and “older then” are correct. But, they are not interchangeable because they mean different things. Usually, we use then for time and than for comparisons. However, this question is confusing because both “older than” and “older then” deal with time and comparisons, but in different ways. Use “older than” to compare the age of one person to that of another person (“My sister is older than I am”). On the other hand, we use “older then” to refer to a time other than the present (“See you then!” Let’s wait a week and buy it then”).

Technically both options are correct. Which one you choose to use depends on your message and the surrounding context.

I’m going to wait until May to take the kids to Disneyland. Parker will be older then and able to ride more rides.
I may be older than you, but I look younger.
Paulina was older than Allison and never let her forget it.
Hugh’s 50th birthday banner said hes “older than the hills.”
You’re older than the internet! How funny is that?

Rather than accidentally making a mistake with then or than in the future, bookmark this page and review as needed. Happy writing!

Let’s see if Then and Than Still Confuse you

Then vs Than Question #1

Which of these statements is incorrect?
Correct! Oops! That's incorrect.

The answer is C. “Then” suggests the order in which specific actions occurred, while “than” is used for comparison.

Then and Than Question #2

“Then” and “than” are homophones.
Correct! Oops! That's incorrect.

The answer is TRUE. Although both words sound alike, they have different meanings.

Than Question #3

Which part of speech is “than”?
Correct! Oops! That's incorrect.

The answer is BOTH. “Than” is a conjunction or preposition, depending on how it is used in a sentence.

Than or Then Question #4

Select the correct answer. Robin is taller ___ Lily.
Correct! Oops! That's incorrect.

The answer is THAN. “Than” is commonly used in comparisons.

Then or Than Question #5

Select the correct answer. Ted looked at her and __ sighed.
Correct! Oops! That's incorrect.

The answer is THEN. “Then” is used to indicate time.

Then vs Than Question #6

Harvey was a spectator rather ___ an actor on the stage of the world.
Correct! Oops! That's incorrect.

The answer is THAN. “Rather than” compares two actions or choices, with the person in question opting for one over the other.

Than vs. Then Quiz Result
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Krista heads up Marketing and Content Creation here at INK. From Linguistics and History to puns and memes, she's interested in the systems we create to share our ideas with each other.

Comments (2)
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    TAMMY TRUONG November 05 at 2:52 pm GMT

    I thought it was other then not other than

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      Krista Grace Morris Author November 05 at 3:56 pm GMT

      Hi, Tammy! You’re definitely not the only one. “Then” and “than” practically sound the same, but only “than” makes sense here because you’re making a comparison. I’m glad our article helped clarify this one! Thanks again for reading and for taking the time to comment. Best!

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