Grammar Grrrl: Then vs Than

meganThis society is becoming dumber. It is time for an intervention!

Stop me if you’ve heard this one: I would rather cuddle then have sex. If you’re good with grammar you’ll get it.

I would rather eat dessert first than my meal, because dessert first is better then second.

If that second one makes you cringe to read, congratulations! Give yourself a pat on the back. If you are still confused or see nothing wrong, please keep reading my dear grasshopper for your grammar lesson.

This society is becoming dumber. It is time for an intervention!

To avoid looking like an idiot, please take notes and pay very close attention.

“Than is a conjunction used mainly in making comparisons,” the Grammarist says.

Ordinarily wikiHow is not the best source of information, however, in this case they have provided some good examples.

“Use than as a word indicating comparison. When you are talking about a noun (thing, person, place or concept) being more, less, better, cooler, dumber, etc. in relation to another noun, the word than is necessary,” wikiHow advises.

When using a comparison, always use “than.”

“I like Coke better than Pepsi.”

“She sang better than he did.”

Keep in mind this tip from e-Learn English Language: “Technically, you should use the subject pronoun after than (e.g., I), as opposed to the object pronoun (me). However, English speakers commonly use the object pronoun.”

“’Then’ is mainly an adverb, often used to situate actions in time,” the Grammarist says.

E-Learn English Language gives four situations where “then” is acceptable.

“Then” has numerous meanings.

1. At that point in time

I wasn’t ready then.

Will you be home at noon? I’ll call you then.

2. Next, afterward

I went to the store, and then to the bank

Do your homework and then go to bed

3. In addition, also, on top of that

He told me he was leaving, and then that I owed him money

It cost $5,000, and then there’s tax too

4. In that case, therefore (often with “if”)

If you want to go, then you’ll have to finish your homework.

I’m hungry!

Then you should eat.

When speaking of time and sequence, use “then.”

“I am going to wash my sheets and then make the bed.”

It can also be used for “if, then” statements.

“If you drive down that gravel road, then you will have to wash your car.”

Now, here is your brief lesson on pronunciation.

The pronunciation is the main reason these two words are so commonly misused, because they are so similar. There is only one letter making the difference, but it can make all the difference in clarifying the meaning of a sentence.

wikiHow gives this helpful advice to teach you how to differentiate the two words:

Pronounce the words differently. Both words contain one gliding vowel, and they are similar. Phonetically speaking, native speakers of English use the schwa (ǝ, kind of like a soft “eh” sound) because it’s more efficient and allows words to be slurred together quickly in daily conversations. Consequently, lots of “a+”s and “e”s are not pronounced distinctly.

•Than is said with the mouth opened widely and the tongue pressed down toward the teeth. The vowel sounds from the back of the mouth and the throat is somewhat constricted.

•Then is more said with the mouth partially opened. The vowel rises from a relaxed throat and the tongue rests.

Now that you will be able to differentiate the two words, go impress your friends! Knowing the difference seems to be a rare feet. Just kidding; just wanted to make sure you were paying attention.

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