Other Than or Other Then: Grammar, Meaning, and Usage – Strategies for Parents

Other Than or Other Then: Grammar, Meaning, and Usage

There are various similar-sounding words in the English language that often result in confusion. A case in point is “than” and “then,” so what is the difference between “other than” and “other then”?

You can use “other” with “than” as a conjunction or preposition of comparison but generally not with the preposition of time “then.” The phrase “other than” works as a conjunction or preposition combining the adverb “other” with “than.” “Other then” is not a meaningful phrase.

This article will focus on the usage, grammar, and meaning of “other than” and the erroneous use of “other then.” We will also discuss the difference between “than” and “then” and “other then” or “other than” grammar.

Is It Other Than or Other Then?

If you are struggling to choose between “other than” and “other then,” remember that “other then” is almost always wrong, so it should usually be “other than.” We cannot collocate “then” with “other” (source).

What Does “Other Than” Mean in a Sentence?

We use “other than” as either a conjunction or a preposition. For example, we use “other than” to highlight an exception for someone or something, similar to using “but.” 

As a Conjunction

A conjunction is a word that you can use for connecting two phrases or sentences or for coordinating words in the same clause. When you use it as a conjunction, it is similar to the word “but.”

Examples:

  • No restaurant was open other than the corner café.
  • There was nothing she could do other than work hard.
  • Ron has no choice other than to opt for the exam.

In the first sentence, the phrase indicates that no restaurant was open except a café. The second sentence indicates that she could not do anything but work hard, and the function is similar in the last example as well.

You can easily swap out the phrase “other than” for “except” or “but’ when it functions as a conjunction.

Examples: 

  • They cannot change the law other than by direct court order.
  • He couldn’t eat anything other than liquid foods.

However, we can also use it to mean in addition to someone or something: 

  • Are you interested in any sport other than baseball?

Here, we could rewrite the sentence to read, “Are you interested in any sport in addition to cricket?”

As a Preposition

A preposition is a word that you can use before a noun, pronoun, or any noun phrase to show place, time, location, or for the introduction of an object. When you use “other than” as a preposition, it refers to an exception and means “except for” or “besides.”

Examples:

  • Other than that, Rob was not capable of doing anything.
  • Other than a new pair of shoes, I bought nothing.

As you can see, it often functions as part of a prepositional phrase or dependent clause.

What Does “Other Then” Mean in a Sentence?

“Other then” is an understandable and common misspelling or mispronunciation of the phrase “other than.” We cannot combine the two as a phrase, but we can use them together in the same sentence and sometimes in the same clause in limited circumstances.

In separate clauses:

  • If I had done any other, then I would have regretted it.
  • Once I determined I could do no other, then I had to respond.
  • I guess I’ll choose the other, then.

In the same clause:

  • If I had done any other then, I would have regretted it later.
  • If I could have done one other thing then, I would have studied more.

In none of these examples do “other” and “then” function together as a unit. Instead, when they’re in separate clauses, “other” functions as a noun, as in something different, while “then” as an adverb describes the necessary consequence resulting from a particular action.

When they are in the same clause, “other” is still a noun, but “then” means “at that time.”

“Other Then That” or “Other Than That”?

“Other than that” indicates in other respects or in addition to what someone has previously stated.

  • But other than that, the experience was not bad.
  • Other than that, we are good to go.

Like “other then,” we rarely use the combination “other then that” in the English language, and when we do, we divide the words into separate clauses.

  • If I had done any other then, that would have bothered me later.
  • If I had done any other, then that would have bothered me.
Image by Mohamed Hassan via Pixabay

Usage of Then and Than

If you’re still having trouble distinguishing the functions of “than” and “then,” let’s review how they function as different parts of speech.

When to Use “Than”

Similarly to “other than,” “than” can also function as either a conjunction or a preposition. 

“Than” as a Conjunction

As a conjunction, it connects two different clauses or coordinate words in the same clause. For example, we use “than” to introduce the second part of a comparison (source).

Examples:

  • You should never spend more than you earn.
  • Tom would rather wait than rush for the pass.

You can also use “than” as a preposition to connect a pronoun or noun to an adjective or verb in a sentence. It generally indicates a temporal or spatial relationship. When you use it as a preposition, it indicates “by comparison with” or “in relation to.”

Examples:

  • I am taller than my brother.
  • You are older than Rob.

Idioms Using “Than”

We also use “than” in many idioms. Some of them, like “more dead than alive” or “more fun than a barrel of monkeys,” indicate comparison.

When to Use “Then”

Mostly, “then” functions as an adverb. However, in some specific examples, you can also use it as a noun or an adjective.

“Then” as an Adverb

You can use “then” to modify adjectives, verbs, or other adverbs. There are various definitions of “then” that you will find in dictionaries, including “at that time,” “in that case,” “at the same time,” “next in order of time or place,” “as a consequence,” or “in addition.” Below are some examples where we use “then” as an adverb.

Examples:

  • Standing right next to Sam is Sandra, then me, and then Jack.
  • If you want to have some fun, then you cannot be afraid of heights.
  • She ended the conversation, then packed the bags.
  • I was still at work then.

“Then” as a Noun

At times, we might use “then” as a noun. When you use it as a noun, it indicates “that time.”

Examples:

  • Since then, Mary has been more cautious. 
  • We had not been to our house before then.

“Then” as an Adjective 

As an adjective, “then” always goes before a noun. This usage indicates “existing or being at the indicated time,” as we demonstrate in the example below.

  • My then room partner Rob moved out, and I have not met him since. 

Idioms Using “Then”

We also use “then” in many idioms. A good example is where it means “on the other hand,” as in “Sam is funny, but then I generally laugh at everything.” Below is a table that will help you remember such phrases and understand their usage.

You can use “then” with other words to create a different meaning. 

IdiomMeaningExample
By thenAction will occur between now and a particular time in the future.You can call me next week; I will surely have some news by then.
Just thenIndicates “suddenly” or some exact time.The phone started to ring just then.
Back thenDescribes a certain period in the past. There was hardly anyone using a smartphone back then.
Then and thereAt once or at that exact place and time.He made his decision to leave then and there.

The Difference Between “Then” and “Than”

A good way to remember the difference between “then” and “than” is to link “then” with order and time and “than” with any comparison. It might also help you to note that there is no one-word substitute for “than” while there are many for “then.” 

Test yourself by considering which one word will be a correct fit for the following examples.

  • I will get back to you no later than/then 8 p.m.
  • The firm needs a good accountant more than/then ever.
  • If you are careful, then/then you should not have any problem with driving your car.

“Than” is the correct answer for the first sentence because it offers a comparison between 8 p.m. and another time, and you cannot substitute it with another word.

“Than” is also the correct answer for the second sentence, as this is also a comparison. However, we can use “then” in the third sentence because it is referring to order and time.

Interestingly, “then” and “than” share some history, and this may be the root cause of confusion between the two. In Middle English, authors frequently used the two spellings interchangeably for all meanings. However, they’ve been distinct for hundreds of years now, so we must understand their difference (source).

There are other similar confusing phrases in English, such as “hold onto” vs. “hold on to” and “at least” vs. “atleast” that you can read more about by clicking the links.  

Other Confusing Than/Then Expressions

Image by Uday Mittal via Unsplash

When it comes to “than” and “then,” there are many common words and phrases that we use together with each. Let’s consider some of the most popular. 

“More Then” or “More Than”?

“More than” indicates extremely, to a great extent, or extra.

  • I will love you more than anything else in this world.
  • I am more than happy to provide you with the necessary help.

We use “more then” to compare the frequency of some action in the past and how it relates to the present.

  • If I had studied a bit more then, I would have scored better marks.
  • Flared trousers were in use more then than they are now.

“Rather Then” or “Rather Than”?

“Rather than” indicates preference. You can use it to put more stress on one thing as you compare it to alternatives.

  • Why do people spend more time on social media rather than in real-life conversations?
  • It would be better to go for a run rather than remain sitting idle in the house.

You can also use “rather than” as a substitute for “instead of.”

  • As he received the news, he became angry rather than being happy.
  • You keep traveling all the time rather than settling down.

There are very few instances where we could use “rather then” without inserting a comma between the words.

  • Not now but, rather, then.
  • Not now, but rather then.

“No Later Then” or “No Later Than”?

“No later than” acts as an adverb phrase. It helps in specifying the outer limit of when something might take place.

  • You need to get to the airport no later than three hours before check-in.
  • Please get back to me no later than Monday.

“No later then” indicates a confirmation of time. It is conversational and informal, as in the dialogue below.

Father: Get back home no later than 9 p.m.

Son: All my friends will be with me.

Father: Okay, 10 p.m. No later then.

“Better Then” or “Better Than”?

“Better than” indicates superior to. You can use it when you need to compare two or more items or things.

  • I am better than everyone else at karate in my school.
  • My new phone is much better than the one I had before.

This article was written for strategiesforparents.com.

You can use “better then” to refer to something improving by a particular time. As it generally relates to time, you will have to position it at the end of the sentence.

  • I am opting for some home improvements, so everything will look better then.
  • It is his birthday next week, so I hope he will feel better then. 

Final Thoughts

When considering “other than” vs. “other then,” the former is usually the correct choice. It’s not uncommon for someone to mistakenly say “other then” when they should have said “other than.” 

“Then” and “than” share many similar characteristics and they even look and sound similar. However, their meanings are different because “than” denotes comparison and “then” denotes time. They also often function as different parts of speech.

Dr. Patrick Capriola

Dr. Patrick Capriola is the founder of strategiesforparents.com. He is an expert in parenting, social-emotional development, academic growth, dropout prevention, educator professional development, and navigating the school system. He earned his Doctorate in Educational Leadership from the University of Florida in 2014. His professional experience includes serving as a classroom teacher, a student behavior specialist, a school administrator, and a coordinator of educator training at UF - providing professional development to school administrators and teachers, helping them learn to meet the academic and social-emotional needs of students. He is focused on growing strategiesforparents.com into a leading source for high-quality research-based content to help parents work through the challenges of raising a family and progressing through the school system.

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