“You have been found guilty of misusing the words ‘then’ and ‘than.’ You are sentenced to three years of grammatical prison.” *gulps* Uh-oh. I plead guilty to this one. I use “then” when it should have been “than” and vice versa. Hopefully by writing this post, I’ll not only remember, but I’ll be able to help you remember as well! 🙂
What happened then after the trolls were turned to stone, Mr. Bilbo?
In the Bilbo sentence, the word “then” means “next.” So, if you’re asking what happens next, use “then” with an “e.”
Then the ruler in Gondor was King Elessar.
“Then” can also mean “at that moment in time.” So, in the above sentence, I’m referring to the time in Middle-Earth history when Elessar was king. (It was a wonderful time in Gondor, too, during Elessar’s reign.) and “then” should be used.
If Thorin doesn’t travel to Rivendell, then he won’t be able to translate the map.
With “ifs” you use “then.”
Is Kili a better archer than Fili?
In this sentence, I’m comparing Kili and Fili. (Sorry, Fili and Kili. You’re both great. ;)) Since “than” is used to compare two things to each other, I wouldn’t use “then.”
I like Legolas’s new hairstyle better than his old one.
Again, I’m comparing two things, so I’d use a “than” instead of a “then.”
Hopefully this post helped clear up some of your (and my!) confusion with the words “then” and “than.”
Here are two links that really helped me when writing this post: