Than or Then?

Posted: February 6th, 2014, 4:03 pm   By: brittany.corners

“Better than the crap you pull, Mac!”—Vermont State Trooper Rod Farva, petulant after his failed soap-in-the-rookie’s-coffee prank

This week, we’ll call upon the venerable Officer Rod Farva to bust perps misusing then and than. As a member of Vermont’s finest, he keeps the highways of the Green Mountain State safe from the relentless encroachments of drug smugglers and the Spurbury Police—allowing the citizens under their charge to enjoy liters of cola, Afghanistanimation and powdered sugar in peace. For, you also have a solemn responsibility: keeping the superhighway of the interwebs safe from the bugbear of misspelled words.

When to Use Than

Than may function as a preposition or a conjunction, but it is only used with comparisons or contrasts.

Example: Officer Farva loves nothing more than an open bar, dude!
Example: His shenanigans are more cruel and tragic than the cheeky, fun antics of his fellow officers.
Example: Very few, if any, people are better than Farva.

When to Use Then

Then primarily serves as an adverb to indicate time or the sequence of events and actions. It may also mean “in addition” or “therefore.”

Example: Officer Farva boarded the school bus and then received a sustained and brutal beating from the malcontent children.
Example: If you ask him, then he will come up with a great name for your car…but “Car Ramrod” is already taken.
Example: Farva is a man of many passions, including police work, law enforcement and the administration of justice—and then there’s his monumental admiration for Canadian tuxedos.

A Tip to Tell the Difference

When you’re trying to decide whether to employ than or then, just remember this easy rule: use than when talking about comparisons, and use then when talking about time. Let this simple advice guide your creative travails, and it should help to keep you from freaking out, man.