Homonyms are confusing creatures.
Now, some words might look and sound alike, but seeing as you rarely use them, you’re never too concerned about it.
You have the words “arc” and “ark.” To this day, I am unsure when to use one or the other. However, I can say that the last time I have had to use either of them was so long ago that I’ve never lost any sleep about it.
On the other hand, some homonyms pop up so many times that I have woken up more than once from a cold sleep, worried that I have written “you’re” instead of “your” and wondering what the ramifications of that will be.
Alright, that was a bit of an exaggeration, but you get the picture.
Also, I am sure I have confused “their” and “they’re” with “there” more time than I care to admit.
See what I did their?
Then, you have “then” and “than,” two confusing siblings that were once one word. They can easily be conflated in different constructions.
For instance, is it “other than” or “other then”? Do both constructions work, or is one of them wrong?
Is it ”Other than” or “Other then”?
The correct answer is “other than,” and it means “except for” or “besides.” There is no such thing as “other then,” and it is incorrect to use it.
How to use “other than”
“Other than” is used to single something out.
There’s a little trivia for all the fans of Friends out there. Basically, the above sentence is saying that no one knew that Monica and Chandler were dating except for Joey.
Why all the confusion?
So, if there is no such thing as “other then” to begin with, where does all of the confusion come from?
Let’s start with understanding the differences between “than” and “then.”
“Than” usually shows up as a conjunction. It serves a comparative function, which means it helps us compare two things to each other.
The above sentence is comparing the size of two cars, where mine is obviously bigger than yours.
Here, the comparison is between the distance he ran and my expectations for him.
On the other hand, “then” often plays the role of an adverb. It is used when we are talking about something that pertains to time.
In the above example, the speaker was probably telling a story, and the word “then” was used to help arrange the events chronologically.
There are also some phrases that use “then,” such as “every now and then” and “even then.” As you can see, they all are related to time somehow.
Interestingly, there are some occasions when “than” can be used to talk about time. Take a look at the following examples
Here, “than” is helping the speaker say that something happened right after something else.
It is worth remembering that in this particular construction, you need to stick to “than,” not “then.”
Now, we started off by saying that these two words can be confusing, and it turns out that we have a good reason for that.
You see, in Middle English, the two were actually the same word. You could use either spelling to denote all the different meanings we’ve talked about.
It was only a few centuries ago when English decided to treat these words differently and make each one unique.
That said, unless you intend to start speaking Middle English yourself, you’re going to have to separate your “than”s from your “then”s, and you’re going to have to stick to “other than” but never “other then.”
Hey fellow Linguaholics! It’s me, Marcel. I am the proud owner of linguaholic.com. Languages have always been my passion and I have studied Linguistics, Computational Linguistics and Sinology at the University of Zurich. It is my utmost pleasure to share with all of you guys what I know about languages and linguistics in general.