The English language can be quite tricky. It’s chock-full of words that look and sound the same, and their definitions are even virtually the same, but only one of these words can be grammatically correct. A prime example of one of these pairs of words is than and then.

“Than” is a conjunction used to introduce the second part of an unequal comparison. It also can introduce the rejected choice in a decision of preference.

Examples:

“I like Skittles more than Reese’s.”

“That dog would rather die than give you back your shoe.”

In contrast, “then” can take on several parts of speech depending on the context. It can serve  as an adverb when used to denote time or a point in time. It can also serve as a noun when referencing a specific time period. In some cases, it can even be used as an adjective, meaning “at that specific time.”

Here are examples of each:

Adverb: “First we need to track him down, then we will interrogate him.”

Noun: “He went missing last Friday and has been missing since then.”

Adjective: “He was my then roommate.”

As a general guideline to follow, than is used for comparisons, and then is used for time. Remember these simple rules to help sharpen your writing. Best of luck!

This post courtesy of MMC Summer Intern Bianca Price