“Than” is a subordinating conjunction that joins two clauses or sentences together in order to draw a comparison
When “than” is used, implied words are often (correctly) left out of the subordinate clause. “I enjoy swimming more than running
.” is the shortened version of the equally correct “I enjoy swimming more than I enjoy running.
“Than” is used in the following cases.
- To show a preference
- Mary would rather have a cat than a dog.
- I’d rather die than to see you suffer.
- To show a lack of choice
- My car was so badly damaged in the accident that I had no choice other than to buy a new one.
- Martin has no friends other than Susan.
- Used with a comparative (e.g. taller, smaller, smarter) and words like “more”, “less” and “fewer” to compare with time, quantity, or an object
- We need to reach the airport no later than 7 pm.
- 8 is larger than 3.
- John’s brother is taller than him.*
Some grammarians insist that the strictly correct usage here ought to be “he”. “Than” is not a preposition. It is a conjunction that links two sentences and leaves out some implied words. So “John’s brother is taller than he.
” is the shortened version of “John’s brother is taller than he is tall.
” However, in practice, it is incredibly rare for anyone to use the “he” construction.
Here are some common expressions that use “than”:
- “actions speak louder than words” – What someone does is more important than what they say.
- “better late than never” – It is better that something happens (late) than never at all.
- “better safe than sorry” – It is better to be careful than to regret any consequences.