Than vs. Then: Dispelling Confusion

Typebars in a 1920s typewriter

Language Lessons. ... Image via Wikipedia

Continuing our series on confusing word pairs, today’s Language Lesson takes a lo0k at than vs. then. To start, read the following sentence and try to figure out if the than/then usage is correct:

I’d rather go to the beach then go to the movies.

In this sentence, then is the wrong choice. Congrats if you got it right; a pox on you if you got it wrong—not really, but let’s see about getting this issue resolved once and for all.

Than is a comparative element—that is, used in making comparisons. Thus:

I’d rather go to the beach than go to the movies.

Then, on the other hand, is a time element, indicating the sequence or chronology of something. Example:

I’m going to go to the store first, then go to the park.

Or, in a slightly different scenario:

Back then, when I was a teenager, I was really lazy.

It’s as simple as that. Class dismissed. =)


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