[ than, then; unstressed thuhn, uhn ]


  1. (used, as after comparative adjectives and adverbs, to introduce the second member of an unequal comparison):

    She's taller than I am.

  2. (used after some adverbs and adjectives expressing choice or diversity, such as other, otherwise, else, anywhere, or different, to introduce an alternative or denote a difference in kind, place, style, identity, etc.):

    I had no choice other than that. You won't find such freedom anywhere else than in this country.

  3. (used to introduce the rejected choice in expressions of preference):

    I'd rather walk than drive there.

  4. except; other than:

    We had no choice than to return home.

  5. when:

    We had barely arrived than we had to leave again.


  1. in relation to; by comparison with (usually followed by a pronoun in the objective case):

    He is a person than whom I can imagine no one more courteous.


/ ðæn; ðən /


  1. used to introduce the second element of a comparison, the first element of which expresses difference

    couldn't do otherwise than love him

    shorter than you

    he swims faster than I run

  2. used after adverbs such as rather or sooner to introduce a rejected alternative in an expression of preference

    rather than be imprisoned, I shall die

  3. other than
    besides; in addition to
“Collins English Dictionary — Complete & Unabridged” 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Discover More


In formal English, than is usually regarded as a conjunction governing an unexpressed verb: he does it far better than I ( do ). The case of any pronoun therefore depends on whether it is the subject or object of the unexpressed verb: she likes him more than I ( like him ); she likes him more than ( she likes ) me . However in ordinary speech and writing than is usually treated as a preposition and is followed by the object form of a pronoun: my brother is younger than me
Discover More

Grammar Note

Whether than is to be followed by the objective or subjective case of a pronoun is much discussed in usage guides. When, as a conjunction, than introduces a subordinate clause, the case of any pronouns following than is determined by their function in that clause: He is younger than I am. I like her better than I like him. When than is followed only by a pronoun or pronouns, with no verb expressed, the usual advice for determining the case is to form a clause mentally after than to see whether the pronoun would be a subject or an object. Thus, the sentences He was more upset than I and She gave him more sympathy than I are to be understood, respectively, as He was more upset than I was and She gave him more sympathy than I gave him. In the second sentence, the use of the objective case after than ( She gave him more sympathy than me ) would produce a different meaning ( She gave him more sympathy than she gave me ). This method of determining the case of pronouns after than is generally employed in formal speech and writing. Than occurs as a preposition in the old and well-established construction than whom : a musician than whom none is more expressive. In informal, especially uneducated, speech and writing, than is usually treated as a preposition and followed by the objective case of the pronoun: He is younger than me. She plays better poker than him, but you play even better than her. but 1, different, me.
Discover More

Word History and Origins

Origin of than1

before 900; Middle English, Old English than ( ne ) than, then, when, variant (in special senses) of thonne then; cognate with German dann then, denn than, Dutch dan then, than
Discover More

Word History and Origins

Origin of than1

Old English thanne; related to Old Saxon, Old High German thanna; see then
Discover More

Example Sentences

And yet as Robert Ward discovered, Marvin—for all of his larger-than-life machismo—was surprising in real life.

My younger, straighter-than-an-arrow son was stopped and arrested in two separate jurisdictions a few years ago.

He was the larger-than-the-life figure, and he loomed impossibly large over this campaign.

Barack Obama is in for a rougher-than-usual couple of months.

Kim is mocking the entire value system on which she built her career, as well as her own less-than-savory past.

Jack probably learned more about the Bible during that trip-its history and its heroes-than during all his former years.

"The Wright brothers invented the lighter-than-air ship early in the twentieth century," he said.

Rugel told him that this was the moment of equilibrium, the peak of the faster-than-light motion.

The competitor who paid the less-than-carload rate on an equal volume of business would be sadly handicapped.

Altogether, it was not until the nineteenth century that any real progress toward flight in a heavier-than-air machine was made.


Discover More

Than Vs. Then

What’s the difference between than and then?

Than is a very common word used in comparisons, as in She’s a little older than you or This hot sauce is a lot spicier than that one. Then is a very common word that’s used in situations involving what comes next—either in terms of time (as in Just then, the door opened or We saw a movie and then we drove home) or a result (as in If you forget to water the plants, then they will wilt).

Grammatically speaking, than is used as a conjunction or preposition, while then is used as an adverb or adjective.

Perhaps the most common way the two words are confused is when then is used when it should be than, but doing the reverse is also a common mistake.

One way to tell if you’re using the right word is to remember that then is usually used to indicate what comes next, and then and next are both spelled with the letter e.

Here’s an example of then and than used correctly in the same sentence.

Example: If you want to be an expert, then you’ll need more experience than you have now.

Want to learn more? Read the full breakdown of the difference between than and then.

Quiz yourself on than vs. then!

Should than or then be used in the following sentence?

I went to the grocery store, _____ the dry cleaners.

Definitions and idiom definitions from Unabridged, based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023

Idioms from The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.