Easily Confused Words: Then vs. Than

Then and than are easily confused words.

The spell-check application of most word processing software programs would not catch a slip-up of these two words. Spell-check is looking for words that aren’t in its dictionary, and words that resemble words in its dictionary but are possibly spelled wrong. Spell-check isn’t perfect. It doesn’t know and can’t guess what word you wanted or what word you meant, it can only judge the words on the page. If you used words that are all spelled correctly, it gives you a pass anyway.

Autocorrect suggests words that start with the same letters. It’s suggesting what word you may want to save time, but quite often, its suggestions are pretty off base. They don’t help you out, but they do make you laugh.

Then (pronounced “th-eh-n”) is a preposition. It is used to indicate actions or conditions that will happen with proper cause.

For example: if it rains, then we can’t go to the baseball game.

Than (pronounced “”th-Ann”) is a conjuction. It is used for mathematical and other comparisons between two things:

  • 5 is greater than 2.
  • 1 is less than 4.
  • This cereal is more expensive than the store brand.
  • I like this top better than that one.

The following story uses both words correctly:

If Tadd seems happier than his twin sister Tanice, then it’s because he is easygoing and doesn’t freak out about little things. He is also quite the comedian.

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