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Then” Vs. “Than”

I started looking at some open-source software and came across Blender, a cool-looking 3D modeling program. On their homepage, I noticed this image (it may no longer be on their page):

Now what’s wrong with this picture? Well, the designer of the image was not very careful when selecting the words to use. The words “than” and “then,” while differing only by one letter, are vastly different in meaning. Then is most commonly an adverb, but can sometimes be a noun or adjective (time- related). Than, on the other hand, is a conjunction, used to compare things. I am better at English than you are, for example. So when you want to compare things, as the person making this advertisement image apparently wanted to, you want to use than.

I think the confusion regarding this stems from the use of “then” as a time- related adjective or noun. For example, “I was there then,” or “the then director of OTS” are valid uses of the word, which confuses people when they want to compare things, especially in time-related constructs, such as “more than before.” Then implies a previous state of being, so previously – then - there were less than there are now. This, I think, is the root of the confusion. If you really want to get your head spinning, try this: “There were more employers there then than previously.” I think that’s grammatically correct, but many people seem to get this confused. It could also be that they are often pronounced similarly if not exactly the same, so drill yourself on it if you’re having problems remembering.

Since I have noticed some common grammatical and language-related mistakes at work, in the IPRO, and just on blogs and websites in general, I think I might start a regular column on here with common problems people have with similar sounding, yet different meaning words. After all, I am the master of all that is English. And I wrote a novel.

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