Definition of than in English:


Pronunciation /ð(ə)n//ðan/

conjunction & preposition

  • 1Introducing the second element in a comparison.

    as preposition ‘he was much smaller than his son’
    ‘Jack doesn't know any more than I do’
    • ‘Always remember that it is far easier to withhold a service or benefit than to take it away.’
    • ‘There is no easier way to change the look of a home than to put on a fresh coat of paint.’
    • ‘If you have a second child, you get more than twice the benefit for a single child, and so on.’
    • ‘Which means we sold more copies in the second week of release than we did in the first.’
    • ‘On one occasion a female passenger leaned on him for more than just a friendly chat.’
    • ‘The sexy star also claimed she is happier now than at any point in the last decade.’
    • ‘It is tempting to believe the world has gone bad, that everything is worse than it was.’
    • ‘However much we decide to be careful, we always end up spending more than we mean to.’
    • ‘It turned out to be better in looks than taste and in any case was described as carrot cake on the bill.’
    • ‘The third was believed to be younger than the first two and was wearing dark clothing.’
    • ‘He said it would be a nonsense for the roof of the main property to be lower than the extension roof.’
    • ‘This is a great venue and we hope to register even more participants than last year.’
    • ‘Our council tax is much higher than in larger towns if you compare the size of house.’
    • ‘He was reviewing books at the rate of more than one a day and writing criticism of a very high order.’
    • ‘Two walkers came the other way, one said it was better here than London in a heatwave.’
    • ‘In later years, the death rate of his patients was far higher than it should have been.’
    • ‘This is intended to build new properties in the Park for rent at less than the market rate.’
    • ‘At six weeks premature, Sam was much larger than many of the other babies in the unit.’
    • ‘He likes getting in on the act too and has appeared in more productions than he cares to count.’
    • ‘In the first quarter of this year, more of these homes were sold than any other type.’
  • 2Used in expressions introducing an exception or contrast.

    as preposition ‘he claims not to own anything other than his home’
    as conjunction ‘they observe rather than act’
    • ‘We would rather be able to hear than be deaf; we would rather be able to see than be blind.’
    • ‘What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?’
    • ‘Mr Miliband would say no more than that the final decision would be left to the council.’
    • ‘Rather than being told to cut out alcohol, a man might be urged to modify his drinking.’
    • ‘It is a joy to be able to delight in somebody else's good fortune rather than be envious of it.’
    • ‘There are rules if you want to find the car of your dreams rather than of your nightmares.’
    • ‘There is no point to cheerleaders other than to be eye candy for the fans and television audience.’
    • ‘This time, he signed for just three years and opted to rent a property rather than buy.’
    • ‘Now its good we can come here for an afternoon rather than be stuck indoors or in the garden.’
    • ‘I try to think where we are going to be in three years' time rather than where we are now.’
    • ‘Far better to get a job in a hotel and learn from experience rather than from some textbook.’
    • ‘Site owners with a primary language other than English need efficient English copy writers and editors.’
    • ‘She says we have to learn to use anger in a positive way, rather than letting it control us.’
    • ‘He used to get friends to ask girls out for him rather than make the approach himself.’
    • ‘In other words, religion is seen more as part of the solution than part of the problem.’
    • ‘Watkins said he felt the outcome would be revealed in a matter of days rather than weeks.’
    • ‘Rather than a game of skill and technique, golf is turning into a mere test of power.’
    • ‘I found it profoundly useful to be able to do this on screen rather than in real life.’
    • ‘He was the first man to treat her as an intelligent person, rather than a sex symbol.’
    • ‘They just seem to do what they are told rather than have their own personal opinion.’
  • 3conjunction Used in expressions indicating one thing happening immediately after another.

    ‘scarcely was the work completed than it was abandoned’
    • ‘Hardly had I driven the car down the road than it attracted waves and nods of affirmation from pedestrians and drivers alike.’
    • ‘But no sooner had Bryansford raced into that lead, than the champions got back into their familiar routine.’
    • ‘In Siena, Gissing worked on the Dickens study, and no sooner had he finished it, than he headed south to Naples.’
    • ‘No sooner was he seated than Lily sidled closer to him.’


Traditional grammar holds that personal pronouns following than should be in the subjective rather than the objective case: he is smaller than she rather than he is smaller than her. This is based on an analysis of than by which than is a conjunction and the personal pronoun (‘she’) is standing in for a full clause: he is smaller than she is. However, it is arguable that than in this context is not a conjunction but a preposition, similar grammatically to words like with, between, or for. In this case the personal pronoun is objective: he is smaller than her is standard in just the same way as, for example, I work with her is standard (not I work with she). Whatever the grammatical analysis, the evidence confirms that sentences like he is smaller than she are uncommon in modern English and only ever found in formal contexts. Uses such as he is smaller than her, on the other hand, are almost universally accepted. For more explanation see personal pronoun and between


Old English than(ne), thon(ne), thænne, originally the same word as then.