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Then and Than. The Differences Explained.

Yorrike (322502) writes | more than 10 years ago

User Journal 1

Hello all.

I normally don't get too angry for too long over acts of stupidity or seemingly stupid fashions. They tend to go away, or I just set my bar of general expectations that little bit lower.

In any case, there is one thing I'm afraid may not go out of fashion, and I afraid that my bar does not descend to the depths necessary in order to accept it and that is people using the word "then" when they should be using "than".

Hello all.

I normally don't get too angry for too long over acts of stupidity or seemingly stupid fashions. They tend to go away, or I just set my bar of general expectations that little bit lower.

In any case, there is one thing I'm afraid may not go out of fashion, and I afraid that my bar does not descend to the depths necessary in order to accept it and that is people using the word "then" when they should be using "than".

Now, I know the words are very similar, differing by a mere 25%, and that the letters e and a are separated by little more than "w" and "s" on a standard qwerty keyboard, but the meanings are vastly different, and you may be surprised just how stupid you look if you have been making this mistake.

Firstly, I will allow my good friend Webster to lay down the law as it is:
then
than

Let me give an example:

"I'd rather chew glass then accept your bad spelling."

Here we see how misuse of the word "then", and ignorance of the word "than" can cause the meaning of the above sentence to be far away from what the obviously misguided writer intended.

In the above example, due to the meanings of the word "then", the sentence actually implies that the writer would prefer to chew shards of glass-state silicon and upon completing such a task, gladly accept the unfavourable spelling of the sentence's intended target (denoted by the use of the word "your"), in preference to participating in an alternative activity.

Had the writer been sensible enough to use the word "than", then his or her intended meaning would be quite apart from the one just described. Rather than stating a desire to accept the target's bad spelling, the sentence would have instead explained that the writer was more willing to consume glass than accept the misgivings of the target's spelling ability. This is because "then" is used to denote an order in a series, or time, while "than" is a function word used to indicate difference of kind, manner, identity or value and in stating preference, as the correct sentence "I'd rather chew glass than accept your bad spelling." is an example of.

So you see, using the correct word in the correct place is not that difficult. If a total chimps like me can do it, then so can super brains like you.

Thank-you and goodnight.

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1 comment

If that is your only problem... (1)

sebi (152185) | more than 10 years ago | (#6869760)

...then you can consider yourself lucky. There are quite a few common mistakes, that simply drive my crazy. The obvious your vs. you're, its vs. it's and all sorts of apostrophe errors. English is my second language, so I have to concentrate pretty hard when using it. For normal mistakes we have spell-checkers, but unfortunately they don't help when you write the wrong word correctly, right?

I have to admit, that I can be amused by some of the more drastic spelling errors. Not just hitting a wrong key, but messing the intended word up nearly beyond all recognition. My recent favourite was writing the word penitentiary with quite a few instances of the letter "u" and more "ns" than strictly necessary.

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