It amazes me the number of truly literate writers who use the word “then,” when they really should have used the word “than.” You know what I’m talking about: “I would rather run screaming from the room then see that misuse again.”
I’m guessing from the frequency with which it happens that many people really don’t understand the difference between “then” and “than.”
The correct usage in that sample sentence should be:
“I would rather run screaming from the room THAN see that misuse again.”
Using “then” instead of “than” happens so often that many people think it’s correct, standard English usage. But it’s not. Why not? Because one is a conjunction, the other is an adverb. They are NOT just variant spellings or pronunciations of the same word.
THAN is the conjunction and it is used in clauses of comparison:
“He wrote 1,000 more words today than he did yesterday.”
THEN is an adverb of time:
“He then celebrated such great writing with an extra cookie and a long nap.”
Got it? See, that wasn’t so hard, was it?
And, yes, I really would rather run screaming from the room than see that misuse again — but I know I will.
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