Friday, April 23, 2010

Then or Than???

How many of you struggle with when to use Then vs. Than? I always struggle with it and normally just "pick" one and move on :) So, today, I decided to look it up because I'm tired of not knowing how to use them properly. WikiHow had a great explanation, complete with examples. Here's part of the article:

1) 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.

* There are more onions than scallions in your fridge.
* Scott was sicker than a dog last week.

2) Use then as a word indicating time. When you want to tell about a sequence of events or are giving instructions in a step-by-step order, the word then is necessary.

* First there were four, and then there were two.
* Wash the clothes, then put them in the dryer.

3) 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.

4) Test your usage. Ask yourself these questions when you're writing a sentence:

* If I write the word next instead of then, will the sentence still make sense?
~ I will go to the store next makes sense, so here we would say I will go to the store then.
~ I like apples better next papayas makes no sense. So we must be looking for I like apples better than papayas.

* If I write the phrase in comparison to instead of than, will the sentence still make sense?
~ It costs more in comparison to a new car makes sense, so you'd want to say It costs more than a new car.
~ You'll never guess what happened to me in comparison to does not make sense at all. Now you'll know you want to say You'll never guess what happened to me then!

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