- Than is defined as a way to introduce the second part of a comparison or to show a difference.
An example of than used as a conjunction is in the phrase "She draws differently than he does" which means that she and he did not draw in the same way.
- Than means in comparison.
An example of than used as a preposition is in the sentence, "She is taller than he is," which means that she is the taller of the two people.
- introducing the second element in a comparison, following an adjective or adverb in the comparative degree: if the first element is a subject, object, predicate nominative, etc., the second element is construed in the same way: [he is taller than I; she arrived earlier than the others; Mom liked you better than me]: sometimes, informally, this use of than is construed as a preposition and the second element as its object [he is taller than me]
- expressing exception, following an adjective or adverb: none other than Sam
- when: used esp. following an inverted construction introduced by scarcely, hardly, barely, etc.: scarcely had I seen her than she spoke to me
- indicating difference or distinction, as:: this mainly informal use of than with different and differently is objected to by some
- introducing an adverbial clause: Paris was different than I'd thought it would be
- linking nouns or pronouns: her story is different than his
Origin of thanMiddle English than, thene, thonne from Old English thenne, thanne, thonne, origin, originally , then: for Indo-European base see that
- Used after a comparative adjective or adverb to introduce the second element or clause of an unequal comparison: She is a better athlete than I.
- Used to introduce the second element after certain words indicating difference: He draws quite differently than she does.
- When. Used especially after hardly and scarcely: I had scarcely walked in the door than the commotion started.
Origin of thanMiddle English from Old English thanne, than ; see to- in Indo-European roots.
Usage Note: Since the 1700s, grammarians have insisted that than should be regarded as a conjunction in all its uses, so that a sentence such as Bill is taller than Tom should be construed as an elliptical version of the sentence Bill is taller than Tom is. According to this view, the case of a pronoun following than is determined by whether the pronoun serves as the subject or object of the verb that is “understood.” Thus, the standard rule requires Pat is taller than I (not me ) on the assumption that this sentence is elliptical for Pat is taller than I am. But the rule allows The news surprised Pat more than me, because this sentence is taken as elliptical for The news surprised Pat more than it surprised me. But this analysis is somewhat contrived. Than is quite commonly treated as a preposition when followed by an isolated noun phrase, and it often occurs with a pronoun in the objective case: John is taller than me. In such sentences using the nominative case ( than I ) can sound unnatural and even pretentious, and objecting to the objective case of the pronoun may sound pedantic. • In comparisons using than and as, the second element should be phrased to parallel the first, and faulty parallelism can arise especially when prepositional phrases are involved. In the sentence They felt that the condition of the new buildings was not much better than the old ones, the condition of the new buildings is compared with the old buildings themselves, not with their condition. The pronoun that must be added to balance the noun condition. The noun can be repeated instead, but in either case the prepositional phrase with of must follow: They felt that the condition of the new buildings was not much better than that (or than the condition ) of the old ones. Similar parallelism should follow as : I want the photos in our brochure to look as impressive as those in their brochure (not I want the photos in our brochure to look as impressive as their brochure ). • Than and as comparisons pose additional problems when the noun following than or as is the subject or object of an implied clause. Does the sentence The employees are more suspicious of the arbitrator than the owner mean that the employees distrust the arbitrator more than they distrust the owner or that the employees distrust the arbitrator more than the owner does? To clarify this, a verb must be added to the second element of the comparison: The employees are more suspicious of the arbitrator than they are of the owner or The employees are more suspicious of the arbitrator than the owner is. See Usage Note at as 1.
- 1668, William Lawson, A way to get wealth:
- You shall also take the fine earth or mould which is found in the hollow of old Willow trees, rising from the root almost to the middle of the Tree, at least so far as the tree is hollow, for than this, there is no earth or mould finer or richer.
- 1665, Stillingfleet, Laud, Carwell, A rational account of the grounds of Protestant religion:
- Answer me if you can, any other way, than because the Scriptures, which are infallible, Say so.
- Used in comparisons, to introduce the basis of comparison.
- she's taller than I am; she found his advice more witty than helpful; we have less work today than we had yesterday; it's bigger than I thought it was
- introduces a comparison, and is associated with comparatives, and with words such as more, less, and fewer. Typically, it seeks to measure the force of an adjective or similar description between two predicates.
- Patients diagnosed more recently are probably surviving an average of longer than two years.
Usage prescriptionists have a number of rules concerning than. In formal grammar, than is not a preposition to govern the oblique case (although it has been used as such by writers such as William Shakespeare, whose 1600 play Julius Caesar contains the line A man no mightier than thyself or me. . ., and Samuel Johnson, who wrote No man had ever more discernment than him, in finding out the ridiculous.). Than functions as both conjunction and preposition; when it is used as a conjunction, it governs the nominative case, and when a preposition, the oblique case. To determine the case of a pronoun following "than", a writer can look to implied words and determine how they would relate to the pronoun.
- You are a better swimmer than she.
- represents You are a better swimmer than she is.
- therefore You are a better swimmer than her is a solecism.
- They like you more than her.
- represents They like you more than they like her.
- therefore They like you more than she is a solecism, if it attempts to represent the previous sentence. It may be correct, however, if it represents They like you more than she likes you.
Some prescriptionists insist that whom must follow than (not who); although according to the above rule, who would be the "correct" form. Critics of this often cite this mandatory exception as evidence that the prescriptionist rule is logically erroneous, in addition to it being inconsistent with well-established usage.
- (now chiefly dialectal) At that time; then.