Far be it from me to be perfect in the English language. My sister, the Ed. D., takes care of that for the family. When she was in under-graduate school she would literally grade the Atlanta Journal Constitution. Damn yankee she is! Perhaps we share a gene. Perhaps I’m just a freak about a few things. Like the use of the words than and then in a phrase with another word such as, “less than”.
Far too often, understanding the internet is mostly unedited, I see the phrase “less then”. Today I saw one from someone I know very well who wrote, “we see you a lot less then we used to”. Really? Is this a < less then symbol? Here, let’s try some exercises:
- Ken can be a jerk but less ________ he has been previously. (then or than?)
- You have more points ________ Bill. (then or than?)
- The Falcons have scored more points _______ the Rams. (then or than?)
- We ate fish and chips _______ had a pint of stout. (then or than?)
- First I will get a tattoo of the moon _______ a piercing of a crater in the moon. (then or than?)
- I would rather stay here first ______ go to work. (then or than?)
Okay, I’m smug and snarky. The last one is not a trick question but it could be. If staying here first is a choice between options then the word than could the correct answer. If the word first had not be used the best answer would be than.
Then is expressive of a point in time. The point can be fixed or random: “First I will run then I will walk.” “First I ran then I walked.”