It Ain’t Grammer: “Than vs Then” (With Bonus “Who’s vs Whose”)

So in today’s “It Ain’t Grammer” post I’m going to talk about the difference between than and then. This is one of the simplest pieces of grammar to get correct. So why do so many people get it wrong? Is it laziness or stupidity?

I like to be optimistic about humans and say it’s laziness, but I’m probably wrong. So what is the difference between the two and how do you know when to use it?

The easiest way to look at it is this:

If you’re comparing two things, use than. If you’re not, use then.

For example, “This is better than that.” “I’m stronger than you.” “It’s better today than it was yesterday.”

Notice how in all of those examples we’re comparing two things. This and that, me and you, today and yesterday. If the sentence involves a comparison, it’s than.

Now look at these examples, “The weather was nicer back then.” “So if I’m the hero, then that means you have to do what I say.” “Sometimes I like to close my eyes and remember the good times, then I realise that my life is not that easy anymore.”

Notice how in those examples we’re not comparing anything. Even in the sentence talking about weather, it’s not a direct comparison as there aren’t two things being compared in the sentence; it’s actually a point in time. Therefore, even though the word is used for different meanings, it’s still all then.

You may have noticed in the title I’m adding in a bonus who’s and whose. The reason I’m doing this is because it’s the same exact rule. If what you’re saying is “who is” or “who has” you use who’s. Otherwise you use whose.

Who’s that?” “Who’s there?” “You can tell who’s eaten Nutella.” (This post brought to you by Nutella.)

As compared to “Whose Line is it Anyway?” (This post brought…eh…never mind.) “Whose bag did I steal?” “Whose side are you on?”

In the first set they’re all saying “who is” or “who has”, in the second set they’re not. See how easy grammar can be? Now you shan’t make those mistakes again. Here are some practice sentences:

1. If you’re here, (then/than) (who’s/whose) there?

2. The weather was cold, but (then/than) it got hot.

3. This sucks so much more (then/than) you know.

4. Do you know (who’s/whose) presence you are currently in?

5. If your life was better, (who’s/whose) life would I look to to make me happier?

6. I’m a better friend (then/than) you’ll ever be!

Do you know someone who confuses “than” with “then” or “who’s” with “whose”? Share this post with them so they’ll never make that mistake again (and if they do you have my permission to call them a moron).

Want to help me out? Please like, comment on and/or share this post. It would really mean a lot to me. Also, if you like my posts, please subscribe to this blog and then you’ll be notified when I post something new.


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