When to Use Then and Than: A Quick Guide to Getting It Right

Have you ever found yourself unsure whether to use “then” or “than” in a sentence? It’s a common grammar issue that can trip up even the most experienced writers. Knowing when to use each word correctly is important for clear and effective communication.

In this article, we will provide a quick guide to help you understand the difference between “then” and “than” and when to use each one.

What’s The Difference Between Than and Then?

The word than is normally used for comparisons to show who or what something is compared against. For example,“cats are smarter than dogs.” The word then is used to show time, as in “at that time” or “after that happened.” For instance, “I exercised then took a shower.”

When to use than

Than is a conjunction is a word that connects two clauses or coordinates words in the same clause. It is used to introduce the second part of an unequal comparison. It also introduces the rejected choice in expressions of preference. Moreso, than can mean “except” or “when.”

Example: Amanda is shorter than Annabelle. She would rather not go than wear high heels.

Than can also function as a preposition. A preposition is a word that connects a noun or pronoun to a verb or adjective in a sentence, usually to express a spatial or temporal relationship. As a preposition, than means “with” or “by comparison with.” Here’s a (technically correct) construction you may not have seen before:

Example: Annabelle is a friend than whom there is none more caring.

Than appears in a lot of idioms. Many of them, such as “more fun than a barrel of monkeys” or “more dead than alive,” feature comparisons. You’ve probably heard some of the most popular ones (e.g., “easier said than done,” “better late than never”) but many may be new to you.

For example, have you heard of “more sinned against than sinning”? Wouldn’t it be a fun project to find out how these colorful expressions started?

READ ALSO: When to Use There and Their: Unlocking the Mystery of ‘There’ and ‘Their’

When to use then

Then functions as an adverb. An adverb is a word that modifies verbs, adjectives, or other adverbs. Dictionaries define then in different ways: in that case, at that time, next in order of place or time, at the same time, soon afterward, in addition, or as a consequence.

Example: Standing next to Paul is Ethan, then my roommate Chris, then me. Edwin told me, “If we are having fun together, then you should take lots of photographs.” There were no digital cameras back then!

Then can also be used as an adjective or a noun. As an adjective, or describing word, it means “being such, existing, or being at the time indicated.” As a noun, it means “that time.”

Example: My then roommate Paul moved out and I have not seen her since then.

The word then can also be used in idioms. One means “on the other hand”: Edwin is funny, but then I laugh at everything. Another idiom means “at that exact time and place, or at once”: Bob asked me if I wanted to take a road trip, and I went home to pack my suitcase right then and there.

READ ALSO: When to Use ‘Have’ or ‘Has’: Solving the Verb Puzzle

How To Remember The Difference Between then and than

According to Grammarly, the best way to remember the difference between the two is to associate then with time and order and than with any form of comparison. Always remember that the word than doesn’t really have a one-word substitute; it’s one of a kind.

Take a look at this example: Alberto is bigger than his brother. There is no other word that can fill the role of than.

However, in I drove to the bank and then went to the store the word then can be substituted by subsequently, to name one example.

Which word is correct in these examples?

  • I will call you no later then/than 7 pm.

The answer is thanThen refers to a specific point in time while than compare the time of the phone call to 7 pm and cannot be substituted with another word.

  •  The company needs a good accountant more then/than ever.

Again, this is a comparison, so the answer is than.

Here’s one more example for you: if you paid attention, then you should have no problem handling these words in the future!

FAQs On When to Use Then and Than

Can “then” and “than” be used interchangeably?

No, they cannot be used interchangeably. “Than” is used for comparisons, while “then” is used to show time, sequence, or consequence.

How can I remember the difference between “then” and “than”?

Remember that “than” is used for comparisons. On the other hand, “then” is used for time or consequence, and it contains the word “then,” which indicates a sequence of events.

Are there any exceptions to the rules for using “then” and “than”?

In standard usage, there aren’t any exceptions to these rules. However, as with any language, there might be specific contexts or dialects where exceptions exist.


While they sound similar, the words ‘then‘ denotes time or consequence and can be used as an adjective, adverb, or noun while ‘than‘ is a comparison-indicating conjunction or preposition.


  • grammarly.com – “Than” vs. “Then”—What’s the Difference?
  • dictionary.com – “Then” vs. “Than”: What’s The Difference?

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