than and then - the difference

by Craig Shrives
The Quick Answer
Then relates to time.
Than is used to introduce a comparison.

Than and Then

The words then and than look similar, but their uses are very different.


The word then usually relates to time. It is most commonly used as an adverb. It has the following meanings:

Subsequently or afterwards
  • Go to the traffic lights, then turn right.
  • It went dark, then there was a scream.
  • The council members argued for three days then eventually came to a decision.
As a consequence or in that case.
  • If you had cleaned your teeth properly, then you wouldn't be in this predicament.
  • You're certain then?
  • If that's how you feel, let it go then.
At that time or that time.
  • I was much fitter back then.
  • She used to holiday in Sri Lanka as it was then known.
  • The schedule will be completed before then.
  • It was the responsibility of the then team captain to account for the trophies in the cabinet. 
  • (In this example, then is an adjective.)


The word than introduces a comparison. It is most often seen with comparatives and words like more, less and fewer.
  • Craig is smarter than Paul.
  • (Smarter is a comparative.)
  • Money is better than poverty, if only for financial reasons. (Woody Allen)
  • (Better is a comparative.)
  • Russia is even more spacious than Canada.
  • (More spacious is a comparative.)
  • I have less space than you, but I also have fewer workers than you.
Interactive Exercise
Here are three randomly selected questions from a larger exercise, which can be edited, printed to create an exercise worksheet, or sent via email to friends or students.

See Also

adverse or averse? affect or effect? appraise or apprise? avenge or revenge? bare or bear? complement or compliment? dependant or dependent? discreet or discrete? disinterested or uninterested? e.g. or i.e.? envy or jealousy? imply or infer? its or it's? material or materiel? poisonous or venomous? practice or practise? principal or principle? tenant or tenet? who's or whose?
More than I or more than me? What are adjectives? What are adverbs? More on comparatives (from adjectives) More on comparatives (from adverbs) List of easily confused words