Than vs. Then

Lesson: When to use “than” and “then” in a sentence.

With than (which rhymes with can) and then (which rhymes with men ) sounding so much alike, it is easy to understand why using these words incorrectly is one of the most common grammar mistakes. Luckily, there is quick way to remember which word to use when. The word then has many uses; however, than is only used in comparisons. So if you are wondering which word to use, ask yourself if the sentence is a comparison. If yes, use than. If no, use then.

Here’s more of the nitty-gritty about these two words.

Like I mentioned above, than is only used in sentences that are comparing one or more things to another. Here are some examples:

Sally has more cookies than I.

That space laser is stronger than any lasers before it.

Fixing space lasers and flying space rockets are more difficult jobs than baking cookies.

Unlike than, there are many occasions when then is the correct word choice. Here’s a run-down:

1. As a point in time

I ate too many cookies then.

I will come over to fix your space laser then.

2. What happens next

I ate too many cookies, and then I felt sick.

I will go to the space laser store, and then I will go to the cookie store.

3. As another way to say also

She asked me to fix her space laser, and then to bake cookies for her.

I filed my report on the space laser, and then the appendices.

4. As another way to say therefore (often in an if/then statement)

If want to eat your cookies, then you’ll have to build the space laser first.

If you try to build a space laser out of cookies, then you’ll get in trouble.

5. To show something existed at a time indicated

In 1998, the then president ordered free cookies for everyone.

The then rock star was at the top of the world. (But now he sits in his mom’s basement all day dreaming about building a space laser out of cookies.)


Let’s test your skillz with a than/then quiz. Fill in the blank with either than or then. The answers are after that awesome photo of my cat and his toys.

1. If my cat keeps clawing my furniture, ________ I will replace his paws with wheels.

2. Yes, cat, you will buy a new couch for me ______.

3. Five years ago, my ______ favorite kitty never clawed furniture.

4. Your cat is so much nicer _______ my cat.

5. My cat clawed my furniture, and ______ it threw up on my new rug.

6. I will buy wheels for my cat, and ______ carpet cleaner.

1. then (as another way to say therefore) 2. then (as a point in time) 3. then (to show some thing existed at a time indicated) 4. than 5. then (what happens next) 6. then (as another way to say also)

Erin Servais has two cats and has edited hundreds of books . . . often with a cat on her lap. Learn how to hire her for your project:

12 thoughts on “Than vs. Then

  1. I’ve been writing both for rpg’s and academically for a good long time and this *still* can give me fits. I have “then” and “Than” hot keyed to the search function in word, because I know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that I’ve misused them somewhere. Great Post!


  2. Pingback: Common Writing Mistakes: Grammar Cheat Sheet for Bloggers | Inspired By Family Magazine

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