CS Sealey

New Zealand-based sub-editor, writer and author

The difference between then and than

TLDR: Then means ‘at that time’ or ‘after’, but than is used in comparisons.

Believe it or not, these two words originally were just then way back when, so you can be partially forgiven for getting them mixed up… but only if you’re a time traveller. If you are, I have a few questions for you!

then (adverb)—at that time; after that; therefore

It was then that I realised I had made a terrible mistake.

John remembered shaking hands with the then Principal Smith.

Sally finished folding all the jeans, then made a start on the shirts.

‘If you had taken the side road like I had suggested, then you would have bypassed all this traffic!’

than (preposition, conjunction)—used to separate a comparison, contrast or exception

Bob was taller than his younger brothers.

Chris had more knowledge than I did about the event.

Tony decided to sit tight rather than try anything heroic.

‘I want that essay on my desk no later than Thursday, Perkins!’ the professor called.

More often than not, it’s then that has mistakenly replaced than, so watch out.

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