Distinguishing the difference between using ‘then’ versus’ than’ can sometimes frustrate beginning writers. The words look and sound alike, but both have distinctly different meanings and usage in the English language. ‘Then’ has several different meanings, but it is used most often when denoting the passage of time. ‘Than’ is only used when making a comparison.
The word ‘then’ has several uses. One way to use ‘then’ is to define a moment in time (‘I am coming home at 3 p.m.’ ‘Okay. See you then.’). Another use is to show a series of corresponding events (‘We went to the store, and then we went to the gas station.’). Further, it is used in place of the words ‘in addition’ or ‘also’ (‘The garbage needs to be taken out, and then there are dishes to do, too.’). Finally, ‘then’ is used in if/then statements (‘If you want to buy that house, then you have to talk to the bank first.’).
INCORRECT: The bull put on his ices skates, and than he went to the lake to skate.
CORRECT: The silly bull dressed up like Santa Claus, and then he went skating on the frozen lake.
The word ‘than’ is used when making a comparison. The easiest way to distinguish between ‘then’ and ‘than’ is to remember that ‘than’ is only used when making comparisons; it has no other grammatical function. If the situation is describing anything other than a comparison, then the word ‘then’ is appropriate.
INCORRECT: The silly bull liked to ice skate much more then going to the mall to shop for Christmas presents.
CORRECT: The silly bull, dressed as Santa Claus, was a much better skater than his friends.