Then vs Than
Then is used to indicate time, whereas than is used to compare two things.
Then = time
- A sequence of events / next / afterwards
- At a specific time
Than = compare
- Comparative adjective (bigger, smaller, older, younger) + than
- At that time / at the time you’re talking about (in the past or future).
- Don’t email me on Saturday, I’ll be in London then.
- He’s always talking about the 80s, about how things were better then.
2. After that, then, afterwards, next.
- He came in the front door then started shouting at me!
- She played football then rugby.
- Let me finish this page, and then I’ll put my book down.
The action you’re talking about will happen between now and a specified time in the future.
- Call me on Tuesday; I should have news by then.
- What will I be doing in 5 years’ time? By then I should have bought a car and been promoted!
At that exact time / suddenly.
- Just then she pulled into the drive in her new car.
- Just then the phone started ringing.
Used to describe specific habits / what life was like at a specified period of time in the past.
- You should’ve grown up in the 70s – back then you’d never expect someone to drive you to school!
- If you think about it we’ve come a long way since the year 2000. Back then hardly anyone had a smart phone!
And then some
And more / and plenty more than that / and a lot more – especially when it’s more than is expected.
- He paid me what he owed me and then some!
- She did all the work the boss asked her to do and then some – she was here all night!
From then on
From a specific time in the past to now /an unspecified time in the future – usually permanently.
- She got promoted and from then on she wouldn’t talk to me any more.
- I pulled a muscle playing football and haven’t been able to run from then on.
Then and there
Immediately – at that time and in that place – usually something surprising.
- When she found out her favourite brand was opposed to fair trade she stopped in the middle of the shopping centre and started taking her clothes off then and there.
- I told him he was addicted to his phone so he threw it away then and there.
Every now and then
Sometimes, not often.
- I see her every now and then, but we never speak to each other.
- Every now and then I’ll pop into the shop around the corner to check if they have my favourite cereal in, but they never do.
On second thoughts, in contrast, on the other hand.
- She said she’d be here, but then again she always says that and she never comes.
- I thought I’d be richer by now, but then again, I keep spending my money on expensive things so it makes sense that I’m not!
If you want to compare two things, you need to use the comparative adjective + than.
- I’m older than my sister.
- My sister is taller than my mum.
- My mum is younger than Theresa May.
- Theresa May is richer than me.
- England is smaller than the USA.
- Portugal is further away than Spain.
- Astrophysics is more difficult than A-level physics.
Than is also used with verbs in the past tense (especially the past perfect) to say one action happened immediately after another.
However, this usage is very uncommon, and only with adverbial phrases, so usually, when you’re talking about a sequence of events or time, you should use then.
- No sooner had she sat down than the cat was in her lap and purring.
- Hardly had they got a cat than their mouse problem was solved.
Meaning besides, apart from, except for, only:
- Other than me, there was no one there.
- I didn’t want to do anything other than lie in bed and watch Netflix.
Meaning in addition to:
- Have you read any books other than Harry Potter?
- Are you studying any languages other than French?
Something is done in place of/ instead of something else:
- For lunch, I eat out rather than cook at home.
- Rather than taking the car to the garage, I fixed it myself.
- Why don’t you help rather than just standing there watching?
Greater in extent or degree:
- It cost a lot more than I was expecting it to.
- It always takes more energy than I expect to get out of bed.
Smaller in extent or degree:
- It surely takes less than 40 minutes for you to get home from here?
Only a small amount or not at all:
- He was less than proficient in English.
No less of a ______(than)
Not any less of a degree of:
- He was no less of a man than his father, even though his father would say otherwise.
Actions speak louder than words
What someone does is a lot more important than what they say.
- Person 1: He said he loves me, but he went out with his friends on my birthday instead of spending time with me.
- Person 2: You know what they say – actions speak louder than words… I think you should break up with him.
More than ever
More now than ever before.
- Since I saw that documentary on the USA I want to go there more than ever!
Eyes bigger than your stomach
You think you can eat more than you actually manage to.
- Person 1: I always leave a plate full of food behind when I go to an all-you-can-eat restaurant – it’s terrible!
- Person 2: You know what your problem is – your eyes are bigger than your stomach!
Rather you than me
I wouldn’t like to switch places with you / I don’t envy you.
- Person 1: I have to walk home in the snow now.
- Person 2: Rather you than me!
Can’t see further than the end of your nose
To be selfish / self-involved / so wrapped up in your own problems you can’t see anyone else’s.
- I tried to talk to her about the problems I’m having with my family at the moment but it was a waste of time – she didn’t listen at all then started talking about herself. She can’t see past the end of her own nose.
A fate worse than death
Overdramatic reaction to an unpleasant situation.
- He invited me to go out with his friends on Saturday but listening to them talk about football for 6 hours would be a fate worse than death.