AskDefine | Define than

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In etymology, it represents þanne, which was a variant of þonne, meaning "then". It is therefore cognate with German denn ("than") and dann ("then"); in Danish the same word dan serves for both "then" and "than." It represents the old dative or instrumental case of the pronoun that.


Extensive Definition

"Than" is a grammatical particle serving as both conjunction and preposition in the English language. It introduces a comparison, and as such 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.


Usage prescriptionists apply a number of rules concerning than that those who do not wish to be edited or corrected may wish to note. These prescriptive grammarians say that than is a preposition that invariably governs the oblique case; opponents argue that although the word has been used in other ways 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.
In actual usage, 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" observing the stricter rules, a writer must look for extra understood words and determine how they 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 arguably incorrect usage.
  • They like you more than her.
    • represents "They like you more than they like her."
    • therefore, "They like you more than she" would instead mean "They like you more than she likes you".

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

alias, as compared with, aside from, bar, barring, beside, besides, by comparison with, compared with, contrarily, else, elsewise, ex, except, except for, excepting, excluding, exclusive of, in comparison with, in other respects, in other ways, leaving out, let alone, omitting, or else, other than, otherwise, outside of, over against, precluding, save, save and except, saving, taken with, unless, without
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