People often confuse the proper use of then and than. Pronunciation is likely the culprit. In the mid-Atlantic region people tend to pronounce both of these as "then." Here's the difference, with a quick memory aid: then rymes with when and is always about time:
When did he make the onside kick? First they made the touchdown, then he made the onside kick.
Than is about comparisons:
He is taller than I am.
The Cadillac is more expensive than the Camry.
You can have both meanings in one sentence:
Aunt Louise was taller then than now.
Or to complete the comparison:
Aunt Louise was taller then than she is now.
But the most important thing to remember is that the word thenis for time or sequence in time.
When was she taller? Back then.
It rhymes with--and answers the questions of--when. And here is a reminder about sequence:
First he did A, then he did B.
And again, comparisons require the word than:
He did A better than he did B.
Using than and then correctly is yet another of those little details what will make your writing clear and professional.
- The pen is mightier (then/than) the sword.
- The hummingbird sipped the nectar, (then/than) flew off.
- A chill wind brushed the treetops, (then/than) the sun rose.
- The raven is much larger (then/than) the crow.
- Yogi is smarter (then/than) the average bear.
As always, feel free to write your answers as comments below.