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Then is an adverb. It has several meanings, all related to time: at that time, next, after, or therefore. In this sentence, then has a couple of slightly different meanings — I was in the circus then, but then I ran away.
Than is a conjunction and preposition. It has several meanings, too, related to comparison. Here it is used as a conjunction — My duck is smarter than your lizard, or Robert is sillier than Harriet. Here it is used as a preposition — He doesn't swim any better than I do.
Sometimes, confusing then and than can lead to embarrassing mistakes:
A useful tip to remember the difference between then and than is that both the words thEn and timE have the letter e in them; and both the words thAn and compArison have the letter a in them.
Here's a quiz to test your understanding of then and than. Fill in the blanks with the correct then/than:
1. You are better ____ me at sport.
2. I ate dinner ____ dessert.
3. We found out that Troy is better ____ Dan at air hockey. ___ we had a cold drink.
4. Better to be safe ____ sorry.
5. Ultimate Vocabulary is better ____ most other vocabulary-building programs.
6. If you want to improve your vocabulary, ____ you should check out Ultimate Vocabulary.
1. than; 2. then; 3(a) than; (b) Then; 4. than; 5. than; 6. then
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