From Middle English than, thanne, from Old English þanne, a variant of þonne (“then, since, because”), from Proto-Germanic *þana (“at that, at that time, then”), from earlier *þam, from Proto-Indo-European *tóm, accusative masculine of *to- (“demonstrative pronoun, that”). Cognate with Dutch dan (“than”), German denn (“than”), German dann (“then”). More at then.
- (stressed) enPR: thăn, thĕn, IPA(key): /ðæn/, /ðɛn/
Audio (US), stressed (file)
- Rhymes: -æn, -ɛn
- (unstressed) enPR: thən, IPA(key): /ðən/, /ðn̩/
Audio (US), unstressed (file)
- (unstressed or, for some speakers, stressed) Homophone: then
- Rhymes: -ɛn
- (obsolete outside dialects, usually used with for) Because; for.
- 1854, Reformation series:
- If thou say yes, then puttest thou on Christ (that is, the wisdome of God, the Father) unkunning, unpower, or euil will: for than he could not make his rule so good as an other did his.
- 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.
- 1854, Reformation series:
- 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.
than (not comparable)
- (now chiefly dialectal) At that time; then.
- (Hà Nội) IPA(key): [tʰaːn˧˧]
- (Huế) IPA(key): [tʰaːŋ˧˧]
- (Hồ Chí Minh City) IPA(key): [tʰaːŋ˧˥]
- Aspirate mutation of tan.
|Note: Some of these forms may be hypothetical. Not every
possible mutated form of every word actually occurs.