The Farlex Grammar Book > English Spelling and Pronunciation > Common Mistakes and Commonly Confused Words > then vs. than
then vs. than
What is the difference between then and than?
When spoken with stress on their vowels, the words then and than are pronounced slightly differently—/ðɛn/ (rhyming with when) and /ðæn/ (rhyming with ban), respectively. However, we often say than without stress, leading to the pronunciation /ðən/, which sounds nearly identical to then. This closeness in pronunciation leads to then and than being regularly confused in written English, but they have very distinct functions grammatically.
Though it has multiple functions and meanings, then is most commonly used as an adverb meaning “at that time; next or immediately afterward.” For example:
- “I’ll be ready around 8 PM, if you want to come over then.”
- “I miss being a kid; things were simpler then.”
- “I’m just going to have lunch and then I’ll start working on the report.”
Than is a conjunction, rather than an adverb, most often used to compare or contrast two things, such as qualities, abilities, actions, opinions, etc. For instance:
- “My brother has always been faster than I am.”
- “Her English is much better than it used to be.”
- “I would rather make less money than spend every second of my life working.”
Spelling Tricks and Tips
You can remember the difference between the two words by keeping in mind that when you use then, you are usually talking about what happens next, which is also spelled with an E.
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