Then or Than?

So, I know we all have those things we just don't call our main strength. I get that. And then we all have those things that make such basic and ultimate sense to us, we can't believe anyone would not get it. I have a few holes in my lexicon that give me cause for pause. But this is not one of them. Nope. This falls in the latter category for me.

So here I am to explain, to lend the clarity I was born with. And I pray someone else can do the same for me when it comes to certain math equations or other areas that cause me consternation.


This lovely word is an expression that only relates to time. I went to the store, then I went home. It shows continuity of action. One thing happened, then something else happened. The second thing follows the first. Order is established. Time is given relativity as two activities are explained in their time-oriented context to one another. It's a truly beautiful thing.

Frodo received the ring from Gandalf, then he incinerated it (with Gollum's help, and Sam's, too) in the fires of Mordor.

Princess Leia kissed Luke Skywalker, then she learned he was her brother.

I get my paycheck, then I buy a plane ticket.

See, the arrangement of time is really important. And that little "e" between the "th" and the "n" says it all. Think of the line going across the middle axis of a lower case "e" as the arrow pointing toward the next thing that happened.

Or think of how "time" has an "e" in it, and so does "then."


"Than" indicates a comparison. It has nothing to do with time. It also doesn't have an "e" in it. So perhaps this will be helpful.

With this word, one thing is better, worse, larger, taller, stronger, older, or nerdier than the other. There are no equals with this word. Something is always better and the other thing is always worse.

Jim says that bears are better than Battlestar Galactica.

Westley is better at the battle of wits than Vizzini.

Neither Star Wars nor Star Trek is better than the other.

Whoa, see what I did there? I created a situation of equals using the word than. But the word itself indicates comparison, which leads to the idea of a top dog and an underdog. So that statement uses a negative statement to remove the comparison. Either way, the word than draws our attention to the comparison, and the sentence negates it.

To remember this one separate from then, think of the "a" in it. "A" goes at the beginning of the alphabet, it is best, it is first. Therefore, than indicates comparison. It's the best. While then indicates time because the "e" looks like an arrow pointing.

Maybe you'll find your own way to remember. But in case you need a reminder, I'm here to point the way!

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