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Grammar Tips & Tidbits

 

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Then or Than?

 

The words then and than can be easily confused because they sound so much alike. Let's see if I can clear up some of the confusion!

Then
is used when referring to time.

Examples: Check your voice mail first; then check your e-mail messages.
  Life was much easier back then.


Than is used when making comparisons.

Examples: She is younger than Tommy.                                                 
  That truck is bigger than mine.


It's easy to understand the difference between then and than, but it's not as easy to remember the difference. The Gregg Reference Manual (10th edition) provides this simple rhyme to help you recall the distinction:

"Remember that then (like when) refers to time." ¹

Now it's time for a pop quiz! You'll find the answers at the bottom of the page.

1. Four quarts of milk is more then/than six pints.
2. The police received more then/than twenty complaints about the party.
3. If you promote your business wisely, then/than you will be successful.
4. Shelly is better at dealing with the children then/than her husband.
5. Fewer people signed up for the conference then/than we expected.
6. First we'll go swimming; then/than we'll eat lunch.
7. Beth said she'd rather have chicken then/than beef at the wedding.
8. We were blissfully naive back then/than.
9. Please eat more then/than a spoonful of peas.
10. Ted parked his car and then/than accidentally left the keys in the ignition.

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Answers:

 

1. Four quarts of milk is more than six pints.
2. The police received more than twenty complaints about the party.
3. If you promote your business wisely, then you will be successful.
4. Shelly is better at dealing with the children than her husband.
5. Fewer people signed up for the conference than we expected.
6. First we'll go swimming; then we'll eat lunch.
7. Beth said she'd rather have chicken than beef at the wedding.
8. We were blissfully naive back then.
9. Please eat more than a spoonful of peas.
10. Ted parked his car and then accidentally left the keys in the ignition.


 

Source:

1. Sabin, William A. The Gregg Reference Manual. Tenth Edition.
         New York: McGraw-Hill/Irwin, 2005, p. 342.