Grammar Different From vs. Different Than |
The Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation

Different From vs. Different Than

Different from is the standard phrase. Most scholars obstinately avoid different than, especially in simple comparisons, such as You are different from me.

However, some of the experts are more tolerant of different than, pointing out that the phrase has been in use for centuries, and has been written by numerous accomplished authors. These more-liberal linguists point out that a sentence like It is no different for men than it is for women is clear and concise, and rewriting it with different from could result in a clumsy clunker like It is no different for men from the way it is for women.

They may have a point, but many fine writers have had no problem steering clear of different than for their entire careers.

If the article or the existing discussions do not address a thought or question you have on the subject, please use the "Comment" box at the bottom of this page.

140 responses to “Different From vs. Different Than

  1. Geoffrey Lukens says:

    I’m not trying to be difficult, but I hereby take exception to the notion floated here that the expressions different from and different than have seemingly been on an equal grammatical footing for nearly three hundred years!

    Wow, where have I been? [Rhetorical question]

    This controversy between than and from (as prepositions) when used with the verb to differ or the adjective different seems to be one which has, is, and perhaps will, ultimately result in accommodation of bad or lazy grammar. It’s yet another instance of the decline of our language, the dumbing-down of primary schooling.

    I hear (presumably) otherwise well-educated, well-spoken people in public making this mistake. It’s a pretty gross mistake. On one hand, when the uneducated speak in this way it’s one thing. It’s forgivable, even though one would like to explain and disabuse them of their error. On the other hand, public figures, whether it’s our president or a respected news anchor, should be responsible enough to check themselves and what they utter before they go public. Or have we come to expect and accept such colloquial expressions from our role models?

    Differ takes the preposition from (exclusively) for the simple and logical reason that, as the verb to differ implies, it sets apart by exclusion rather than by degree of comparison. As in this is different from that. When something differs, it implies another from which it is distinguished.

    The fundamental question: how does something, be it a state of being, a quality, a quantity, an action, differ from another thing? Answer: comparatively by contrast. The contrast is either by degree or by total exclusion; if one thing is excluded (outside the set which includes another) from, it is different. The preposition than is used with greater or less; the preposition from is used with different.

    That’s how I see it.
    The lazy speaker does not want to expend the effort to construct the requisite clause to follow from [that which, the other]… etc.

    If we tried this little litmus test in most other languages, we’d probably get the same results. It’s beyond the scope of my immediate reply to attempt that. I think I would/could prove my premise, but I’ll let it go for now.

    Different than is colloquial, which is, strictly speaking, not correct. It may be “Acceptable, accommodated,” but not right; it is lazy usage of grammar.

    • Anon says:

      Audacious of you to claim language decay when you are not speaking Old High German, but rather English. Re-write your post to sound more like Beowulf (Saxon) and then you might have some credence when you condemn language change.

      • doc says:

        Dear Sir/Madam,
        You are a very, very funny person. Your comment about Geoffrey Lukens’ audacity has had me in stictches all morning. How dare he rebuke users of modern English in anything other than Old High German? If you are not a professional writer, you should be. I very much want to share your conversation with others but I don’t know how well it’ll land with my idiot, facebook friends.

    • Pam says:

      Thank you so very much, Geoff. Seeing “different than” written in publications or spoken by (supposedly) educated people is a major pet peeve of mine. I majored in English in college and taught English grammar for several years and am undoubtedly more sensitive to this common grammatical error than others, I admit, but when “different than” appears in scholarly publications, a manuscript, or is used in a formal speech, I cringe.

      • Jeff Johnson says:

        While you’re right to slow down and examine things, remember that language changes. The author of the original post is correct in observing that the phrases have been interchangeable for quite some time now.

        Ain’t wasn’t a word, until it was. Language and grammar have always evolved.

        • says:

          Yes, language and grammar continually evolve. While the word ain’t has a long history, it is now considered nonstandard.

        • David says:

          Jeff, you’re correct that language changes, but the adoption of “different than” to replace “different from” goes well beyond the simple evolution of vocabulary, such as accepting the word “ain’t” into common usage. Using “different than” when you mean “different from” ignores the underlying and fundamental grammatical logic that Geoff has so astutely laid out. The two phrases are, and must remain, distinct from each other inasmuch as a speaker or writer may variously need to distinguish between two objects in comparative vs. exclusionary terms. In this sense, “than” must always be coupled with a comparative adjective, as in “more than”. For example, logically, you could say “A and B are both different from C, but A is more different than B”; however, it defies grammatical logic to say “A and B are different than C” because there is no comparison being made, only a statement of exclusion. I must agree with Geoff’s analysis 100%. While the original blogger may be correct that both have become accepted usage, this has arisen only through a very ugly rejection of fundamental grammatical logic. I entirely dispute the blogger’s examples of when “different than” is the acceptable choice over “different from”. You use “different than” if you’re making a comparison – for exclusion it should always be “different from”. People who care about language – and certainly professional writers and speakers – should never interchange the two.

          • says:

            In February 2014, a new edition of the Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation will be issued. The “Different From, Different Than” entry in the “Confusing Words and Homonyms” chapter (as well as on the website) will be revised to read as follows:

            Different from is the standard phrase. Traditionalists obstinately avoid different than, especially in simple comparisons, such as You are different from me.

            More-liberal linguists point out that a sentence like It is no different for men than it is for women is clear and concise, and rewriting it with different from could result in a clumsy clunker like It is no different for men from the way it is for women.

            They may have a point, but many fine writers have had no problem steering clear of different than for their entire careers.

          • Ed says:

            There’s also “Different to” but yes I agree with Geoff, and you. Which is why things like this bother me:

            “No real justification”

          • Dan C says:

            I mostly agree with you, though I wonder if instead of saying “comparative vs exclusionary,” you should perhaps say “relatively vs exclusionary” on the basis that we “compare to,” not “compare than.”

            It seems confusing; “bigger,” “faster,” “brighter” do indeed seem to be comparing, but I think the difference here is that these adjectives (though called comparative adjectives) have the purpose of declaring a feature about one thing as a relationship to something else. When we simply compare two things to see what differences or similarities there be, it is asking a question. We may name a discovery we made by doing this action, but the action itself is a question, not a statement.

            Sorry I can’t put this in better words. But I’d summarize like this:
            Exclusionary statement: From.
            Relative statement: Than.
            Question: To.

        • Joseph O'Connell says:

          Does anyone actually say, “This car differs than that one.”? Of course not. Anyone would say, “X differs from Y.” Surely it must follow then that “different from” is correct and that “different than” is not. Consistency is not always the hobgoblin of small minds; it is much to be admired in logic and language.

    • Kaitain says:

      Absolutely right, Geoff. Using “X than” applies to rank order comparatives. “Different” is essentially a scalar rather than a vector comparative: it has no direction. If you say “A is bigger than B”, swapping the order of A and B inverts the meaning. With “different” this is not the case. “Than” is completely wrong when used with “different”.

    • James says:

      Yes, well said!

    • Mollie Hollar says:

      Although I did not read all 94 messages here I simply must comment. I too am horribly bothered by “different than” just as I am about so many grammatical errors.
      However, I believe most of you are missing a couple of important considerations.
      1. As my son says language changes. We have only to listen to or read speeches by famous Americans over the last 200 or so years to find proof of that. Unpleasant for those of us who are purists but inevitable. It will continue to happen.
      2. Read some Shakespeare, folks. Notice any difference from our language today? The main reason for that of course is that he wrote in English and our language here in the U.S. is American, which is a conglomeration of just about every language in the world.
      I could go on but I hadn’t intended to write this much. It’s difficult to climb down from my soap box.

      • LRPHILL says:

        How about: “How will your children’s lives differ from you parents’ lives?” That captures the intent and is rather concise. It even has fewer words (9 vs. 11) than the “different than” phrase.

      • Enrique Perez-Terron says:

        Clarc said on December 3, 2014: …something like “In what way will your children’s lives be different from the way your parent’s lives have been.” is confusing…
        Consider why it would be confusing. The statement compares lives to ways, and ask in what way the two things will be different. The natural ting would be to compare lives with lives, and ask in what way they will differ. So: In what way will your children’s lives be different from your parent’s lives?

        We had this other example: “It is no differennt for men than it is for women.” To actually analyze this example, you must reconstruct a suitable context. Something has been said about women in general, and the quoted statement says that the same thing can be said about men. The statement is probably best understood as an abbreviated form: “no different” here means “applies equally much”, and using a negative form, it could be expressed as “It is no less true for men than it is for women.”

        When you find an exception to a general grammar rule, consider if the logical disruption is more apparent than real, and due to a retained grammatical form when the wording has been simplified. The dictionary articles say that the “different than” has been used for centuries by accomplished writers. I would like to know if quite a few of the cases have been of this nature.

        Some comments use the terms exclusionary versus comparative. Maybe it would be more helpful to explain it more fully. Consider the statement: “Arabic is more different from French than English is.” The word “than” seems to be quite obligatory when describing differences in degree of the same quality. Said statement assumes that English has a quality to some known degree, and says that Arabic has the same quality to a higher degree: The quality of being different from French. Difference is a quality that can only exist between a plurality of objects. A single thing can be red, without reference to other objects, but a single object can only be different when it differs from something. We use the preposition “from” to indicate what that something is. Thus it is part of specifying which quality we are talking about. For a language, being different from French is not quite the same thing as being different from Hebraic. The word “than”, on the other hand, is used to refer to an object having the same quality to a different degree.

        The common point in these relations, is that something is mentioned as the presumably known point of reference. If I say that I am taller than you, I am describing my height, not your. But I am mentioning your height as a reference. If I pretend that you are different from me, I am describing you, although negatively, by saying how you are not: Not equal to me. This common point probably explains why the “wrong” word sometimes comes to mind. If this happens only occasionally, it is quite possible that the language will not evolve toward a complete normalization of the use of “different than” for simple statements of difference. But young people use language to signal group memberships, and that drive is likely much stronger than the desire for logical clarity. We survive pretty well with numerous ambiguities in our languages. When the ambiguities become too annoying, we often invent new ways of disambiguating our language, instead of reverting to an earlier usage. Therefore, no matter how “wrong” and annoying it sounds to us elders, “different than” may well become idiomatic. As it may well not.

    • Matthew Yomoah says:

      Agree with you more THAN others.
      Another aberration that has grown into a norm is, “I wish I would have known”.
      “I wish I had known” indicates I didn’t know then what I know now in hindsight.
      So what does “I wish I would have known” mean?

    • Elvis says:

      And, Geoff, “if we tried this little litmus test in other languages . . .” should be, “if we were to try . . .” Conditional. It’s funny to see your your argument, about which you are correct, undermined a bit with at least one mysteriously-placed comma, and use is that clunky phrasing.

    • Kristine says:

      I cringed when I saw the following sentence in a “home letter” to parents, part of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt’s curriculum related to a lesson on the Japanese storytelling tradition of “kamishibai” (otherwise quite an interesting lesson): “This week we’ll explore the question ‘How is a live performance different than other kinds of entertainment?'” What hope is there if this is part of the official curriculum?

    • Lee says:

      Lennalf, I was about to add my opinion about the grammar in question, when I read your post, and now I’m onto the subject of capitalizing in typing. I’ve always written in my own style, and that includes capitalizing (or underlining) words that I intend to be stressed. (And, I’ve been doing that long before the “Rules of Email” came into being.)

      I capitalize words so that what I write can be read in the way I intended. There is a big difference between “I want your house” and “I want YOUR house.”

      I’ve read (and, haven’t we all?) many nasty, vile,angry inflammatory emails and Internet comments that didn’t contain a single word “all in caps.” I agree that there should be civility in computer communication, but I think content is far more important than whether a word is typed in uppercase.

      • Timothy says:

        I agree with you on your point about using all caps and capitalising the first letter of each word. And I have a beef with much of the Web’s lingo. Any culture (and the World Wide Web is a culture) that emphasises the acceptance of uneducated grammar and spelling is flawed in its grammatical premise. While it can be called Web language, nevertheless things like “lol”,”roflmao”,”and expressions that uses quotes and apostrophes is advocating a lower level of education. In my humble opinion.

    • says:

      We also commend non-native English speakers who are able to master the English language. However, we do not see any indication in Mr. Lukens’s comment that he is a native French speaker.

    • LD says:

      There is no such thing as laziness when it comes to language. What a ridiculous idea! There is just language and language use. If “different than” is used and understood by any group of language users, however small, then that form is as functional and valid as any other within that particular community. It is important to remember that no single community of language users “owns” a language. Language belongs to all of us, and the idea that there is a “correct” way of using language which is separate from successfully communicating meaning is absurd.

      Luckily, at the end of the day, your opinion is completely and utterly irrelevant to anyone but yourself and that misguided community of prescriptivists you belong to. In essence, you are entirely harmless – a saddlemaker complaining about the rising popularity of cars. Even so, I wish you’d stop spreading these nonsense opinions, because you are accomplishing nothing but bad things. Your pointlessly restrictive view of language has more in common with religion than anything else in the way that it deals in absolutes while being completely deaf to criticism, observable fact and common sense. Can’t you keep such dusty, musty things to yourself and let the rest of us enjoy the wonders of our living, evolving language?

    • Mark says:

      Thank you, thank you, thank you! I am so glad, happy, ecstatic that someone else recognizes that infuriating misunderstanding of our language! I have a few other linguistic pet peeves, too. Of course, I generally speak as everyone else in casual conversation, but the written language is a thing of beauty that should conform to the grammatical rules of its inherent logic.

    • W. F. Osburn says:

      If I understand your reply, I think that people in the limelight face the task of communicating either in the vernacular of common usage, such as a politician who wants his constituents’ support or a scholar who wants to be as clear as possible with peers.
      May I suggest that the speaker choose words carefully, considering the ability of the hearer to understand and act on the words spoken.

  2. unitron says:

    When things differ, they differ from one another.

    When things have an unequal quantity of the same quality, one of them is more -er than the other. For instance, happier, shorter, louder, sweeter, et cetera. Also use than for instances of the above when there’s no -er form of the word–If one is sweeter than the other, is the other more sour than the one? (I’m reasonably sure that sourer ain’t a word.)

  3. James says:

    I’m afraid I think Geoff is very badly wrong about this. As you say, “different than” has been in use all over the English world for hundreds of years. Maybe (I just don’t know the history) it was once non-standard, but surely 300 years is enough to make it acceptable now! As the OED notes,

    The construction with than (after other than), is found in Fuller, Addison, Steele, De Foe, Richardson, Goldsmith, Miss Burney, Coleridge, Southey, De Quincey, Carlyle, Thackeray, Newman, Trench, and Dasent, among others

    More important: the word “than” is definitely not a preposition. It is a conjunction. To call it a preposition is just incorrect (not a matter of taste, style, etc.)!

    • David says:

      You’re right that “than” is a conjunction. “From”, however, is a preposition, which is exactly why “different from” is correct and “different than” is not. Just because the latter phrase has been used for 300 years, doesn’t make it grammatically logical. It can be and is used in colloquial writing and speaking, but for formal writing and speaking one should always use “different from” to indicate the exclusion of one thing from another. People commonly say “I could care less” when what they actually mean is “I could not care less” – while the former usage is colloquially acceptable, it is not formally acceptable because it is grammatically illogical. It is the same with using “different than” when you mean “different from”. You can’t replace the function of a preposition with that of a conjunction – no matter how many centuries you try to sell it to the masses. Consensus does not override structural logic – just as one cannot arbitrarily change the laws of physics, one also cannot arbitrarily change the rudiments of grammatical logic. “From” and “than” are preposition and conjunction, respectively – they are functionally 100% distinct from each other and cannot logically be interchanged, no matter how many centuries people continue to use them incorrectly.

      • Becky says:

        I take issue with a comparison between the “laws” of grammar and the laws of physics. Grammar is manmade and evolves through use (or “misuse”). The laws of physics don’t change, they are perhaps only redefined as they are better understood.

        Grammar does not have to be logical and often does change with a consensus (whether we like it or not). Regarding logic in language, the double negative, for example, is not accepted as correct in English, but it is the standard in Spanish and Portuguese (and perhaps other languages), as in, “He never does nothing,” (“Ele nunca faz nada”).

        I agree with you in sentiment–that logic should be followed–but that doesn’t mean it always is. One could argue it, but it would be hard to defend.

        • says:

          Thank you for writing, Becky. We would like to briefly comment on James saying that a misuse which has been around a long time ceases to be a mistake. This is not always the case, of course. How many decades (centuries?) has lay-lie been getting mangled, but still we maintain the correct usages? Also, it simply is not true that than isn’t and can never be a preposition. It sometimes is, as in this sentence: “He is a man than whom few are braver.”

      • Clark says:

        Logic isn’t really a thing that matters in language, because the language itself constructs the logic. So if the language changes, the logic changes. I feel that there is no real logic behind most prepositions, which is why when you are learning a foreign language your teacher will always sigh when you ask “Why” when you learn a new preposition collocation. In Czech one was “na mojí chatě” last weekend, which literally translates as “on my cottage.” In German it would be “bei meiner Hütte” which literally translates to “in my cottage,” while in English we would say “at my cottage.” There is no overarching logic to this, it’s all made up.

        I know we are discussing the internal logic of English here, but it helps to put these sorts of things in context. Of course, the internal logic of English is pretty unreliable. “Named for” and “named after” can be used in the same contexts, but “take after” has a concrete meaning while “take for” doesn’t mean anything at all and certainly cannot be substituted for “take after” in any context.

  4. Connie says:

    I agree with Geoff and quite love his well-written statement about the use of “from” vs “than” after “different”. On the other hand, James may have a point that “than” is a conjunction–perhaps as in “Going to the ball game is different THAN going to the opera.” Could James quote us the usage exactly by his string of quotable personages? I’d love to learn more about how this has been used for some 300 years because I too am under the impression that this claim is not precise.

  5. Kim says:

    In another web site discussing this very issue, someone postulated that “than” versus “from”, when used in the context of comparison (which is *always* the context for the word different) would parallel their use in math:

    > greater than
    < less that
    = equal to
    not equal to, or different from

    This is how we say things when we want to be precise. Using than in the last line instead of from just confuses the to and form parallelism. It not only grates on the ear, it seems lazy … a lack of precision.

    My point being that I feel this way when I looks at the examples that suggest the use of “than” … they feel contrived, because using “differently” in those contexts feels lazy and uninformative.

    For example: That is preferred for #4, which is written awkwardly as:

    4. Chopsticks are very different to hold from/than a fork and knife are.

    I would prefer a more elegant statement using different to read this way:

    Chopsticks are held differently from the knife and fork.

    But than would work if we get into a real comparison, where degree is expressed:

    Chopsticks are *harder* to hold than the knife and fork.

    And that perfectly parallels how the words work in math.

    “Than” is also preferred for #5:

    5. He treated me differently from/than I would have expected.

    Again, my choices are:

    I would have expected him to treat me differently.


    He treated me much better (much worse) than I would have expected.

    Thinking in terms of general comparison versus degree pretty much straightens it all out for me.

    • Jane says:

      These are good points. Thank you for your comments.

      • Deb says:

        My mother told me that things in life are not “hard” they are “difficult”….. I don’t know about whether it is correct, but does sound better.

        • says:

          The American Heritage Dictionary includes the following definition and example for the word hard: “Difficult to endure; causing hardship or suffering: a hard life.” Therefore, either word is grammatically correct. (It could be that your mother was taught this distinction in school by a teacher who held a strict line of interpretation of these words in his or her day.)

    • Mary Flynn says:

      I like the association you made with math constructions. Over the years of teaching GED, I have seen the connection between math and language. Too often we teach them as separate subjects when, actually, they are interdependent.

  6. stacy says:

    Different from vs. different than ,when used incorrectly hurts my ears. But not so much as the seemingly now acceptable “bring vs. take”. My biggest grammar pet peeve of all time. Not many of us left who know how to use the english language correctly. My Mother, (God rest her soul) I’m sure, turns over in her grave each time our Commander in Chief says “figger” rather than figure and “ta” rather than to, as in, “we must figger out a way ta reduce the budget deficet”. Drives me CRAZY, I tell you, just crazy!

  7. Ed Crane says:

    I think this may be less complicated than we think. It depends on what you consider to be a well-written sentence and what exactly it is you’re trying to say.

    “Than” in the following sentence works, as a verb is implied and omitted [in brackets].

    “People in New Orleans speak differently than people in New York [speak].”
    — If you don’t omit the verb and use “from”, it would be incorrect and come across as such to the reader or listener.
    — If you omit the verb, using “from” in this sentence may pass various litmus tests but technically woud be incorrect.

    “From” works in the sense that something “differs from” something else e.g. “I differ from my colleagues on this point.”

    “A New Orleans accent (differs from / is different from) a New York accent”

    — “Differs than” is (and sounds) incorrect.
    — “…is different than” is also incorrect, but would probably be acceptable to most readers / listeners.

    I think the first sentence, using “than”, is more concise, and clearer.

    • As mentioned at the beginning of the lesson, the expressions different from and different than have been used almost interchangeably for at least 300 years. That is why we are approaching this lesson from the angle of what is preferred rather than a strict correct vs incorrect argument.

  8. Ed Crane says:

    I realize this throws a wrench into the answers to the quiz…but based on my theory, I would answer as follows (with my reasoning in brackets)

    1. This dress is different from the one in the catalog [one “differs from” the other]
    2. How is this salad dressing different than last night’s dressing [was]? [omitted verb].
    3. His moustache made him look different than his brothers [look]. [omitted verb].
    4. Chopsticks are very different to hold than a fork and knife are. [verb is not omitted!]
    5. He treated me differently than I would have expected [to be treated][omitted verb].
    6. He treated me differently than what I would have expected [same reason as preceding. I think this should read “he treated me differently than how I expected.]

    • says:

      We “prefer” our answers which are consistent with the guidance provided in the lesson.

  9. Dave says:

    I agree with Geoff as well, but here’s the peace, um, to which I’ve come. In the course of work, I review a lot of documents. Some of these really matter a lot, others much less so. If the document is super important (e.g., a Supreme Court brief), I will correct “than” to “from” even if it’s the only change I make. Otherwise I make the change only if I’m making other changes. I see this error ALL the time, and from VERY well-educated people. It’s a bit like the use of “impact” as a verb. I’ve pretty much given up correcting others for “errors” such as these. The cost of pedantry can actually be quite high in the real world. I will try to be correct in what I say and write, but for the most part I’ve given up trying to hold back the tide when it comes to others.
    Also, fwiw, my Webster’s says “than” is both a conjunction and a preposition, the latter when used in the sense of “in comparison with.”

    • Erik says:

      “The cost of pedantry can actually be quite high in the real world.” I would like to post this on my office door.

  10. Nancie says:

    Say, FYI, if you are taking standardized tests like the GMAT or SAT, “different from” is always used when comapring two nouns and “different than” is used when comparing a noun with a clause.

    • says:

      Thank you for the information. That is consistent with the preferred usage in our rules.

  11. Rose says:

    Than is used when comparing. “He is taller than I thought he would be.”
    How can you compare degrees of difference? “He is differenter than I thought he would be.”

    • says:

      While either “He is more different than I thought he would be” or “He is more different from what I thought he would be” are grammatically correct, these are odd sentences that are hard to imagine anyone actually saying or writing because they don’t indicate in what way the person is different. We might imagine someone saying something like, “He looks more different from his high school yearbook picture than what I expected.”

  12. Chris Miller says:

    There is nothing more delightful than seeing grammar teachers argue with the unlettered or among themselves. This question also made it to sites like yahoo questions where the unlettered gave their opinions on it. Woe to society where grammar has become a matter of opinion. Let us ever stand against it on the little sites like these that readers of yahoo will never visit.

    So everyone agrees that just because different from and differently than have been used interchangeably, this means that their meanings are the same but where you use them acceptably is not the same. The first is used correctly in a phrase and the second in a clause. That is how I have taught it for lo these many years, and how I remember it today.

    But to Jane I wish to add the rule that is applied by the writing teacher in me when the grammar teacher steps aside. When you have a sentence this awkward, just reword it.
    “My heavens! This is his high school yearbook picture. He has really changed–and definitely for the better” for example.

  13. Margie says:

    After reading the postings I feel vindicated!
    I have been accutely aware for years how often “than” has been spoken in discourse or written in books when “from” would have been the correct choice.
    “…. is different than….” drives me nuts.
    Another grammatical pet peeve is using “that” instead of “who” or “whom”. ex. Mary is the one that came in late. Also: “gunna” for “going to”.

  14. BIL says:

    I do nat agree that different from and differnt than have been used interchangably for the past 300 years. Different than is a gramatical error common in certain parts of th US. and the lack of attention to correct grammar seems to be growing.Formal English demands that the term “than” be used when measurable comparisons are made….. better than, taller than, smaller than, faster than….. however when notations are made “from ” is used. Your biology text book is different “from” mine, but mine is heavier “than” yours. The white paint you bought is different “from” what I have …. but the white paint you bought is whiter “than” what I have.

    • says:

      The leading grammar authorities and resources differ greatly on this topic. The information we cited is from which is based on The Random House Dictionary.

  15. Warwick says:

    One essential difference between these two words is that “from” is a preposition while “than” is a conjunction.

    The preposition, “from”, indicates a “going away”, in contrast with the preposition “to”, which indicates a “going towards.”

    “Millions of people came to America after the second world war; they came from all corners of the world.”

    “Dogs are very different from cats.” In this sentence one is concerned with placing dogs “away” from cats. And also, “from,” as a preposition, shows the object that this word “different” applies to and how it applies.

    “Than” is a conjunction and joins two clauses. “Than” places one thing “alongside” another for purposes of comparison, rather than moving that thing away, as “from” does.

    Dogs are very much easier to teach than cats.

    “Than” places dogs alongside cats and compares them.
    “Than” joins the first clause, “Dogs are very much easier to teach” with the second clause “cats (are)” (the “are” is understood.)

    What about those who say that you can use “than” after “from”, when you are diferentiating a noun from a clause?

    Here’s an example; “When you train cats you use very different methods than dog trainers use.”
    To be blunt, a sentence such as this demonstrates that the one who framed it has a tin ear for language and doesn’t understand the flow of meaning that words are designed to convey.

    Someone with the simplest grasp of the meanings of words and the way they connect to each other (that’s otherwise known as grammar)would see that someone proficient with language would write; “When you train cats you use very different methods from (those) which dog trainers use.” “From” is the preposition and “those,” which should be included, is the object.

    OK, you say that “than” is a conjunction that joins clauses; what about a simple case: “I’ve seen your attempts at training cats; you’ll have to do better than that.”
    Simple, just include the verb that is understood and then you have “better than that (is.)”

    You will not understand the way these words can best be used by trying to memorize rules. You have to become clear in your mind about the meaning of the words and the way they connect with each other.

    Finally, do I think that I know more than the people who compile the dictionaries and the rules of English (know?)

    I am less politically correct than the folk who compile dictionaries and rule books; they are slaves to the idea that “the people know best and usage determines meaning, so that if most people use a word in a particular way then that’s how it ought to be used.”

    That’s rubbish. If you look at the meanings that words are meant to convey then you can see that very often most people do not understand those meanings and the way that words connect with each other, and they make stupid mistakes that reflect this misunderstanding. Most people write “This begs the question” when it would be much truer to the meanings of words to write, “This raises the question.” It is silly to say, “The language is changing and we just have to accept it.” Some changes introduce new and helpful and colourful meanings and expressions and other changes are just a dumbing down of the language that makes it uglier and less expressive. And furthermore, many changes are an attempt to use fancy, and misunderstood, expressions when the plain and everyday expressions are much better. “This begs the question” except when it is used in the context of narrow, logical discussion, is one of those changes.

    • says:

      Thank you for your thoughts. In addition to being a conjunction, the word than can also be used as a preposition.

  16. Ed E says:

    As a product of 12 years of Catholic school nuns, I was taught a very simple way to handle this:

    The nuns say, “Different FROM, Different FROM,
    Different THAN is ALWAYS WRONG!”

    Than is a comparative used to measure quantative terms such as bigger than or taller than, etc. I agree we have gotten very lazy with our written and spoken word. It seems there is little we purists can do to stop the momentum.

  17. Victor says:

    “different from” should be the recommended usage; “different than” should be exceptional. The argument that an error that has been around for three hundred years is not an error is a weak one. In 1633 John Ford makes a priest say “[…] for better’tis to blesse the sunne then reason why it shines”; he writes “then” for “than” in many other places in the same work. That there are examples of “then” used for “than” four hundred years ago does not make the usage correct today.

    • Carl says:

      John Ford was correct to use “then,” which meant “than” to express a preference for one action as opposed to another action.

      Greater than, Better than, More than….
      as opposed to
      Different from…

  18. Erin says:

    Use from or than, whichever comes naturally.

    Languages change over time. Prescriptivism to this extent makes me feel queasy, and scrolling through the comments here showed me quite a lot of it.

  19. Sunbirdwoman says:

    Goodness, people, just chill out! Languages have been evolving since, well, languages began. (Otherwise, what WOULD we be speaking now?) Why don’t you just relax about it? Just because other people aren’t using “your” language the way “you” were taught to use it doesn’t mean that they’re using it “incorrectly”. Language isn’t like mathematics, you know, where, if the problem is stated correctly, there is only right answer, or one set of right answers. In fact, one of the strengths of the English language, and one of the main reasons so many people on this planet want to learn it now, is that there are so many different ways to express the same idea and still make oneself understood. English has always been a haphazard, make-it-up-as-you-go-along sort of cant, full of odd grammatical structures and slang, largely because it’s the bastard offspring of many other tongues, most of which were far more prescriptive. The only time anyone’s really cared about English grammar, or its spelling, for that matter, has been when certain segments of society have attempted to use it as a tool for social differentiation and dominance. Really, if the “improper” use of “different from” and “different than” bothers you so much, I think that you might want to investigate anti-anxiety medications, because English will change in even more startling ways before long. It is spreading around the globe, and as it has done so many times before, it is changing and growing every time it encounters another linguistic source. Check out Indian English, African English, “Spanglish”, Caribbean English, and the new, burgeoning Asian English! You are now part of a huge, diverse community of English speakers. Fussing over minor details of grammar is as absurd as refusing to accept your new neighbors because they grow petunias and you prefer geraniums. Just relax and enjoy!

  20. So sad says:

    I don’t think it’s an issue of ‘change’ really. People are just following the trends of the uneducated (many celebrities). It catches on and spreads like wild fire. It hurts my ears… reporters, government officials, educators… those that should be the leaders and not followers. I constantly tell my kids- different from, more, less, bigger or smaller than. I explain the difference and use. It’s hard though because that’s how their educators speak, other parents and subsequently their friends. I do my best. Likewise with with the bring and take…. I could go on and on. Education is certainly not where it used to be….. Words are introduced and vocabulary increases but grammar is just grammar. I am in agreement with Geoffery it’s just laziness.

  21. Asmith4 says:

    Language is destined to change through constant and repeated usage. It will be what it will be; what it evolves into over time; how people use it and what they mean when they do; how others understand what is said. I also take great exception to the condescending references to the “ignorant” or “unlettered” or “uneducated” people who don’t (Oh My GOD! A contraction!) know the proper distinction between the two. Most of us have no trouble understanding what they are saying. You purists remind me of my elementary school teachers, mired in the same mud as you. I understand what you are trying to do, but accept the fact that languages evolve.

    Freres and feendes been but lyte asonder. Friars and fiends are seldom far apart.


  22. Asmith4 says:

    OK now let’s talk about the difference between “bring” and “take”, should be pretty simple, but most people outside the Southern US do not seem to understand.

    Bring: come with to a certain point
    Take: go with to a certain point

    Why don’t people get this?

    If I am at point A along with object Y why would I ask someone to “bring” object Y to point Z? I am not at point Z so what good would it do me for them to “bring” it there? Why not “take” it there?

  23. Grammar Scold says:

    The author’s examples below illustrate exactly why using proper grammar is so important and how incorrect, lazy and ambiguous using the phrase “different than” can be.

    In the first three examples, the author correctly uses the word “from”, and the reason it works is because each sentence compares two objects from like classes.

    1. This dress is different from the one in the catalog. (comparing two dresses).
    2. How is this salad dressing different from last night’s dressing? (comparing two salad dressings)
    3. His moustache made him look different from his brothers. (comparing brothers).

    The author uses “than” in the last three sentences because it sounds correct, but does so only because the sentences are ambiguous. Readers could interpret the sentences in different ways and to compare objects or phrases of different classes.

    4. Chopsticks are very different to hold than a fork and knife are. [“Than”works here only because of a lot of missing language in what is a colloquial, spoken style. Does the sentence compare chopsticks to knives and forks or does it compare the way one holds utensils of different sorts? The sentence is unclear about that and the locuion “different to hold” is the root of the problem, and another stylistic or grammatical error. One would say “Chopsticks are different FROM knives and forks,” OR “Holding chopsticks is different from holding knives and forks.” But the original sentence confounds the utensils with the methods for holding them so “different than” sounds correct in that sentence only because of incompletely specifying what two objects or actions it is comparing.

    5. He treated me differently than I would have expected. Similar to the “chopstick” example. [This sentence is comparing two actions from different classes, so “than” sounds correct only because of an idea that it expresses incompletely. As written, the sentence is comparing “treated” to “would have expected” which are actions of unlike classes. The full thought is: “He treated me differently FROM THE WAY THAT I would have expected.” This fully expressed sentence now compares two objects from the same class — ways of being treated. And in this fuller sentence, using “different from” is clearly correct.

    6. He treated me differently from what I would have expected. [Notice how this sentence differs from sentence 5. It correctly compares treatment in the subject clause to “what” in the object clause rather than to “I would have expected.” Sentence 6 is a complete thought, so “from” sounds correct, and is. Sentence 5 is a lazily abridged sentence, so “than” sounds correct but only because it compounds the error of omitting “what” or “the way that”.

    O.K., O.K. I get it that all of these sentences are clear either way. But they are simple examples. In only slightly more complex sentences, the ambiguities would be much more difficult to parse. In such cases, using the proper “different from” would help writers to express themselves clearly by forcing them to compare the objects of like class that they intend to compare.

    Good writing and speaking should evolve over time; but their main purpose — expressing ideas CLEARLY is an unchanging objective. Write ambiguously if you wish, but to be clear, write grammatically.

  24. Evelyn says:

    Thanks, everyone, for your input here. I have always tried to stress to friends and fellow writers the difference between “different from” and “better than”. I found this site very helpful. I feel vindicated. I understand that people speak more informally than they write, but it is important to follow the rules of grammar when writing formally to keep our language and its clarity alive.

  25. Paul E. Schoen says:

    I enjoyed reading the original explanations as well as the subsequent discussion. It has been only recently that I realized my erroneous use of “different than”, perhaps because I saw it elsewhere and in one of the more obvious incorrect contexts. I take pride in writing properly, although sometimes I am not sure of the proper wording, and in such cases I often find that the entire sentence needs to be rewritten.

    I like the statement, “Bad grammar is something up with which I shall not put”!

    And I recently saw a sign that said, “Past, present, and future walked into a bar, and they were tense”…

  26. guest says:

    thank you for the education, i knew something sounded wrong when i said different than, and now i know why. I will never make that mistake again!

  27. Carl says:

    I’m afraid that this battle has been lost.

    “From” was once used widely to describe a qualitive distinction, and “than” was used to describe a quantitative distinction a/k/a comparison e.g. “different from” vs. “greater than.”

    This has not been universal throughout the Anglosphere e.g. I have heard Englishmen and Australians use the word “to” in place of “from.’

    At this point in this country, however, “than” has become almost universal, despite the logical loss.

  28. Dub Campbell says:

    The from/than argument shouldn’t even be an argument at all.

    I accept that language changes and often evolves but for people who supposedly appreciate our language, teach it, broadcast it in an official capacity or care to be understood thoroughly, it only makes sense to learn some basic rules and follow some structured guidelines in order to communicate verbally in any setting.

    Pop culture may have an entirely ‘devolved’ language that works very well for those who use that particular dialect… and there’s nothing wrong with that. But for an English teacher, a person who speaks publicly in an official capacity or a news anchor on our local, national and, in particular, an individual who desires to communicate clearly with international people whose primary language is not English, for example, it should be obvious that we should do our best to follow the same rules in speaking or writing ‘our’ language as those individuals who are still learning the basics of it.

    Saying that ‘this’ is different than ‘that’ is simply bad English. A small change in wording, however, makes the use of ‘than’ perfectly acceptable :

    “This is different”… much more different ‘than’ that one (is).

    Language barriers, especially on a global scale, are the main reason some countries’ leaders stoop to wars. They often have great difficulties because of seemingly simple misunderstandings between the languages… not the people themselves.

    Americans’ colloquial vocabulary can be very confusing to other Americans, so try to imagine how a foreigner may miss the point if you were to say something like:

    You ought to check out this ‘dope’ band downtown. They are bad, man! ‘ Or, we could just hang loose and chill out tonight.

    Maybe these visitors have a very savvy interpreter with them who is familiar with the slang used in a given area… but what are the chances of that?

    Something is always ‘different from’ something else.

    On the other hand,

    Something is also better, bigger, hotter, colder, meaner or friendlier ‘than’ something else.

    ‘Different’ sets things apart, giving to distance, ie separating this ‘from’ that.

    ‘Than’ compares this ‘with’ that (not from that).

    This is better, bigger, smaller ‘than’ that.

    When we’re just hangin’ and chillin’ amongst our friends these rules have little or no worth.

    But when we represent our work, our Country… When we announce the news on radio, TV or in print, it’s important to put our best foot forward and makeour words mean exactly what we wish to convey. Ifwe refuse to do that, we’re just asking for complete chaos among all of those who would otherwise respect our best efforts to communicate clearly.

    • says:

      In February 2014, a new edition of the Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation will be issued. The “Different From, Different Than” entry in the “Confusing Words and Homonyms” chapter (as well as on the website) will be revised to read as follows:
      Different from is the standard phrase. Traditionalists obstinately avoid different than, especially in simple comparisons, such as You are different from me.
      More-liberal linguists point out that a sentence like It is no different for men than it is for women is clear and concise, and rewriting it with different from could result in a clumsy clunker like It is no different for men from the way it is for women.
      They may have a point, but many fine writers have had no problem steering clear of different than for their entire careers.

  29. Steve Wesselkamper says:

    I seem to share the view of many commenters that “different than” is generally discordant and should be avoided. I am particularly troubled by “different than” when it is used in electronic or print mass media or non-conversational (i.e. formal) public discourse.

    The February 7. 2014,Wall Street Journal reports on Coca Cola’s investment to promote home, counter-top Coke machines under the Keurig brand. Reporters Annie Gasparro and Mike Esterl write, “But soda is different than coffee.” Perhaps there was an editors holiday.

  30. Kent Pitman says:

    Language has always evolved, so an argument that amounts to “it used to be this way and must not be allowed to flex” is not one I find particularly compelling. Variant usages arise sometimes by accident, and sometimes by intent, but even those that arise by accident can be found to have value. To my ear, “differ from” has an active quality of a thing pushing away from another thing, and that focuses on the act of deviation. But to my ear “different from” grates because it refers after-the-fact to a distance between two objects at a time when the actor in the motion may not be apparent. If your position is not my position, then we may say that our positions are different, but saying that it is your position that differed from mine as mine remained fixed or that it is mine that differed from yours as yours remained fixed becomes difficult. Perhaps neither remained fixed. All we know now is that our positions differ, and for that reason I prefer to say one position is different than the other because it doesn’t suggest a from/to directionality. My position is not based on my knowledge of history or approved use, but on simple pragmatics. The use of “from” in this context suggests a fact not in evidence, and in the same way as the passive voice would hide the need to reveal a verb’s subject, the use of “than” hides the need to reveal who/what differed from who/what.

    • Griff Derryberry says:

      Regarding whose position was fixed while the other’s position was in motion, Albert Einstein said that there’s no absolute frame of reference (reference frame). I’m not sure how this helps with the from/than debate, but I thought that I’d throw in that.

  31. Stephen Coulson says:

    ” ‘It is no different for men than it is for women’ is clear and concise, and rewriting it with different from could result in a clumsy clunker like ‘It is no different for men from the way it is for women.'”

    The second is a clunker but the first is still wrong. The intent of ‘no different’ is to say that ‘It is the same for men and women’. You could use ‘or’ in place of ‘and’.
    To say the opposite you could say that ‘it is not the same for men and women’ which would be the same as saying it was different, but you would not say that ‘it is not the same for men than it is for women’.

    I think the problem here is that ‘no different’ is an idiomatic construction that means ‘not different’. On the other hand you may say that there is ‘no difference’.

    “It is not different for men than it is for women” is clearly (I think) wrong as is
    “There is no difference for men than there is for women”.

    Comparing should be simple. The rules are:
    Same as, more or less than, similar to, different from and the difference between.

    • says:

      We were playing devil’s advocate for this one instance of different than, trying to be fair, admitting it has pragmatic advantages sometimes. However, we conclude that it is best to steer clear of different than.

  32. Don Houston says:

    I think this discussion has failed to appreciate that ‘different’ has two meanings (that are different!).
    Imagine a picture of two dogs. One is white and one is black. The white dog is different from the black dog. That is, the PROPERTIES of the two dogs are not the same.
    Now imagine that you see a picture of a dog, and another picture of a dog that looks the same. If you knew that the dog in the second picture is not the same dog as the one in the first picture, you would say that the second dog is different than the first dog. That is, the IDENTITY of the dogs is not the same.

    • says:

      Regardless of how you choose to define the word different, we still advise avoiding the phrase “different than.”

  33. Terrence O'Keeffe says:

    I’ve been through this whole slogging match and would like to make a few simple points. First, “different from” and “different than” may or may not offend the listener’s ear in any given case. That indicates that usage is a major determinant of correctness, as well as of semantics.

    Second,while dictionaries define “than” as a conjunction, which it normally is, if it works as a preposition in a specific phrase, then it becomes a preposition in that phrase. This should be obvious for the word “but”, which most of the time is used as a conjunction, but which becomes a preposition in phrases where it means “except” (e.g., “All but one returned.”) What excludes this from being true for “than” in the phrase “different than”? This (a word being used as more than one part of speech) can also be true of nouns that are turned into verbs. Though “impact” or “vector” as verbs offend my ear, I can see their semantic sense (that is, they say what they mean, their meaning is clear, and they are more economical than a longer phrase; maybe some day they will “sound OK” too). Obviously the English language has a long history of “back-formations” where nouns become verbs and vice-versa. (Example: “I toss the ball to Joe, and he says, ‘Nice toss, Harry’.”)

    Third, Geoff starts out with the questionable assumption that differences must be understood as exclusive, though they are often conceived in terms of degrees or of more than one quality. Which is why we can have “differences between” (two things), “differences among” (more than two things” and “several differences between” (two things) and “several differences among” (more than two things), and so on. The phrases make perfect sense, and they are usually used in a context where the specific differences are described, itemized, etc. By the way, opposites should never be called “mutually exclusive”, but rather “reciprocally exclusive”. If they were in fact mutually exclusive it would mean that each of them excludes a (same) third thing. “Categorically exclusive” is also misused in similar fashion, but we’ve all learned to live with such minor mangles, because we often understand what the speaker is getting at.

  34. Charles Myhill says:

    Americans love to use extra words in a sentence. I believe they think it adds gravitas. For example: “meet with” instead of meet. “At this time” instead of now… et al

    The sentence in question; “It is no different for men than it is for women..” could be better phrased as:

    “It is the same for men and women.” “There is no difference between men and women” “Men and women are treated no differently” and so on.

  35. Andrew Ola Asonibare says:

    I have followed this debate with interest. I don’t mean to sound like the umpire but I think most of the contributors hit it spot on. The problem is, there are so many spots to hit :) I’m still cracking up about the necessity of rebuking modern English speakers in Old High German. Fact is, at any point in time, language will always be in three stages (at least): evolving, extant and going extinct. Remember when ‘bad’ only meant the opposite of ‘good’? Actually you don’t because it started meaning other things since at least the 1850s. No, Michael Jackson didn’t start start the fire.

    “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” It is probably incorrect grammar and logic as of now to say ‘different than’ but if the users of language are gradually making it the new standard, then those trying to preserve ‘different from’ exclusively, would be like some folks I’ve known who insist that reading the Bible from an electronic device rather than from paper text are being sacrilegious. Language exists for us and not for language. It should be our tool, our clay. And as long as what I say is clear to you, then why can’t we all just get along?

    Thumbs up Griff Derryberry about Albert Einstein!

  36. Ava says:

    I must agree with those here who say that rules are more important in English Grammar than simply letting the lazy or uneducated corrupt the language. English grammar with rules does and should have high standards which separate the wheat from the chaff, so to speak. But when you mingle those two, your eyes begin to cross.

    My eyes cross a lot with almost every conversation I have with a certain friend. Although she is among the upper-crust, she slaughters the English language. It’s just all too obvious that she probably skipped out on a lot of grammar classes when she was in school or she never had any classes at all. She says such things as, “I’ve went there already.” I wish I could think of other examples now. (I need to write them down as I hear them.) I guess I’d just say she’s a high-class lady who speaks like a commoner and I find myself cringing a lot when we converse.

    I’ve noticed for at least 20 years that otherwise supposedly well-educated folks just don’t know their grammar. I even see that happening a lot on the TV news, with people who should know better (they used to!). I’ve gotten it in my head that this is because either they don’t teach grammar any more in English classes, or the teachers were never taught to speak correctly, so they can’t teach it to others either. I really don’t know why this has happened, all I know is that it has happened, and it doesn’t make me happy.

    Which brings up a question I have. How do you deal with this when you’re with a friend that uses bad English? I don’t make it my mission to go around correcting the world, but I do tend to correct friends and family who keep making the same mistakes over and over. So how do the rest of you handle this? (Or in this day and age, would Prozac be the better option?) lol

  37. Ava says:

    Saying, “It is no different for men than it is for women” of course is correct. I don’t think that’s quite what we’re talking about here.

    Because you wouldn’t be caught dead saying, “It is no different for men from it is for women.”

    See what I’m saying?

    • says:

      The comments have taken a detour from the original example sentence. We do not think that any of the writers recommended writing “It is no different for men from it is for women.” They are using “different from” in a different context.

  38. Cathy says:

    The example “It is no different for men than it is for women.” is irrelevant to the argument since the adjective takes a different preposition THAN the verb. The example is on par with “It is harder for men than it is for women.”

    • says:

      To equate a positive adjective (“different”) with a comparative adjective (“harder”) defeats your argument.

  39. Jonathan says:

    Concerning “different from” vs. “different than”:

    “Back in the day”, all secondary school students were taught both grammar and how to diagram a sentence. Today, neither obtains. Why? Because the teachers weren’t and aren’t taught, either.

    “From” is a preposition; “than” is a conjunction. They are different from each other. “From” distinguishes; “than” compares.

    Salt and sugar are different from each other. But, you are younger, taller, thinner, or prettier than I.

    • Jonathan says:

      What contributes to creating this controversy is the term “no different” What is that supposed to mean?

      2 things either are different or they are not different from each other.

      So, where does “no different” come from? That term makes no sense to me.

      • says:

        If two things are alike, it is acceptable to say that one thing is no different from the other.

  40. Jess says:

    People can be educated and intelligent, but speak incorrectly at times. Everyone has different strengths and weaknesses. Let’s try to help people with their weaknesses as opposed to just being rude and overbearing. I come from the generation where grammar was not taught, so I know for sure that I am lacking in that area at times. And yet, I am still very successful in my career and I have a superior IQ. Instead of bashing each other, we need to think of ways to better public education.

    • says:

      That was well said. Thank you for your comments.

    • Jen says:

      I agree. I am educated but there is no “revision” available when speaking. Often times we are moving through conversational topics so quickly that there is not time to think of this verb with this thing (I actually don’t know the terms for grammar, I just know what sounds well together). I could use a grammar refresher, but I don’t feel that my saying something incorrect grammatically really hurts anything when you at least understand my meaning. Isn’t that the whole point of language, to communicate? How I speak plays no part in how I write.

  41. Mark says:

    “Than,” at least how I’ve thought of it, works in terms of comparisons of more or less. The correct way of saying, “It is no different for men than it is for women,” would be: “It is no more (or less) different for men than it is for women.” Just as you would say: “It is no harder for men than it is for women.” That is to say, what you are comparing is the degree of difference between what “it” is for men and what “it” is for women.

    “Different from” has more to do not with comparing degree, but with acknowledging a fact. When I say that roller-skating is different from ice-skating, I’m not commenting on HOW different the two are – I’m simply stating that there IS a difference.

    This, for me, is how I tell the difference in usage. In other words, there is no problem with “different than,” just as long as you have “more” or “less” in front of it. If you don’t, then you should be using “different from.”

  42. ASM says:

    Please do NOT post the previous post (where is the edit function here?) Errors! Try this:
    Look at these two examples:
    In what ways will your children’s lives be different from those of your parents?
    In what ways will your children’s lives be different than your parents’ lives have been.
    The use of FROM in this sentence is impossible! Right?

    • says:

      The second sentence could more properly be written as “In what ways will your children’s lives be different from the way your parents’ lives have been.”

  43. JakeJohnson says:

    How about removing the auxiliary verb, so that the sentence becomes:

    “New Orleans natives’ speech differs from that of New York natives.”

    More concise? But I would really side with just avoiding such vague statements, which are a kind of fluff used to introduce the real comparison. Comparing the writing of, say, Simon with Thomas, there is no need for the overly-vague “different.” Just leap in with something similar to: “His writing is more elaborate than Jane’s.” This statement is still general enough, requiring more elaboration in the sentences that follow.

    I am avoiding the actual grammatical question by making a change in style? Well, yes, but the problem with even the correct “His writing is different from John’s” is that it is tangled up by combining the copula with the adjective formed from the verb “differs.” In other words, the entire construction of “differently from” is just bad writing, so even the grammatically correct version should be killed, much as one would kill a correct sentence along the lines of “With whom would you have liked to have gone to the prom?” Kill fluffy.

    • Christian Westerlund says:

      I would put it this way:
      “The speech of New Orleans natives differs from that of New York natives.”
      The sentence looks more balanced, and you avoid the genitive that is the norm in my native Finnish, but not so in written English.
      As to the use of “different from” vs. “different than”: I had a very good teacher back then, so I never knew that there existed a turn of phrase like “different than” until the Internet and reality TV appeared.

  44. Christian says:

    Please people, let’s stop this non sense.
    “Different than” is acceptable but let’s not say it is correct because it just defies the logic behind our grammar. I am not even an english speaker so I had to question Google to figure out what an author meant by “different than” because it could have been one of the phrases you can’t just translate word to word from english to french or vice-versa. We can say it is acceptable but not that it is grammatically correct.

    We can all notice that languages evolve so words are used and combined differently (for example the verb “étonner” which would be translate as “amaze” or “surprise” nowadays, was used to describe the action of being stroke by the thunder – tonner in french – in old french. It makes total sense to a french speacker what this word used to mean because it explains to us how the word was even created and took form and you better understand the roots of the word because “étonner” has to do with “tonnerre” meaning thunder and the prefix “é” was added to the root. If we are good with connecting dots, we can also understand how its use could have shifted to what it is now.). We even come up new words.

    However let’s not become illogical because this rule is very contemporary to our time and space. What people defending the legitimacy of “different than” do is comparable to knowing the rules of phonetic in a particular language and still be debating about the hazardous pronunciation of a word. Both phonetic and grammar are based on very well define rules and a logic, so before coming on forums and giving us pieces of your minds, make sure you educate yourself because people actually come here looking for answers and might end up being misled by certain incorrect answers.

    To make it simple I will use another common acceptable misconception.
    The expected answer to the question “what is your weight” is something like 170 pounds, while it is very wrong because this is the answer to “what is your mass?” the unit of the weight, which is a force should be express in Newton or other appropriate units used to measure forces (like meter/second square) because the mass is a constant thing which does not change with location even though the same mass can have different weights with height and attraction and other factors (everything altering gravity) but the fact that we accept this common mistake due to misconceptions or lack of knowledge does not make it correct in any way – at least until we change the rule). So, with the current grammatical rules, “different than” has been made acceptable by our societies but is not correct. I myself have a lot of language abuse I make in french but at least I am aware of the correct rules to apply when I am in a less casual setting or giving information to others: Like on this forum.
    Saying A is different from B is the same as saying B is different from A. The order does not matter.
    A is faster than B is a totally different topic because we cannot permute A and B in this sentence without changing the meaning (we can only change them if we introduce two different points A and B or move to a different context which is not “who is faster” anymore but “who is slower and now say B is slower than A”).

  45. Maureen Allen says:

    While M. Lukens’ explanation contains some errors, it is a praiseworthy effort by a devoted scholar whose first language is French. As a native American-English speaker,I aspire to perform as well in any other language.

    • says:

      We also commend non-native English speakers who are able to master the English language. However, we do not see any indication in Mr. Lukens’s comment that his first language is French.

  46. Jessie says:

    Different than should only be used when comparing: Men’s cooking is not less different in taste than women’s cooking. However, some men’s cooking is different “from” women… makes sense.

    • says:

      The standard phrase is different from. We feel that different than should be avoided, unless the construction is more different than.

  47. Delight says:

    ” It is no different for men than it is for women is clear and concise, and rewriting it with different from could result in a clumsy clunker like It is no different for men from the way it is for women.” Their point is illegitimate because when “different than” tells you the objects are different but the “than” has no specific element of comparison , whereas when they say “no different than” the “no difference” part means “same” hence it would be illogical to follow with “from” once your put “no” before the difference. Therefore you drop the “no different” and put ‘same’ I t becomes even more concisely ” It is the same for men and women”

    • says:

      “It is no different” has nuances that “it is the same” lacks. Your rewrite is no improvement.

  48. Richard says:

    I’m perfectly happy with “different than” being considered incorrect, or at least, less correct than “different from”.


    “X has a different A from Y” looks wrong.
    “X has a different A to Y” and “X has a different A than Y” both look better than using from. Is from still correct here, and why or why not?

    I have trouble with the rules of grammar in that I know almost none of them explicitly, it’s all intuitive recognition for me.

    • says:

      We would have to see what A, X, and Y are in your examples. Although different than and different to are in wide circulation in the English-speaking world, we feel that different from is the far preferable choice whenever possible.

    • Enrique Perez-Terron says:

      “X has a different A from Y” is an incomplete sentence. To make sense of it one must assume or understand that Y has an A too, but a different A.

      Make a more complete map of the things, concepts, and relationships. X has P, Y has Q, P is an A, Q is an A, too, but P and Q are different, they are not the same A.

      For example, Baltus has Snoopy, Snoopy is a dog; Lucy has Beagle (I made that one up), Beagle is also a dog, but Snoopy and Beagle are not the same dog.

      “Baltus has a different dog from Lucy” can be poor English. The alternatives with “than” or “to” are no better. Whether it is poor English depends on the situation. Does your audience know that Lucy has a dog, too? Or will the audience understand it from the situation? Even if your audience end up guessing you right, if they feel unsure, it is poor English.

      To use “different”, you should mention the two things that are comparable but different. In this case, the two dogs. Baltus has a dog which is different from the dog that Lucy has, Yes, that sounds clumsy, so change the statement and use a different words: Baltus’dog is not the same as Lucy’s. Or, if you are thinking more of the dogs’ qualities than of their identities, try: Baltus’ dog is different from Lucys’ – it is stronger, heavier, whiter.

  49. Carmine Giordano says:

    The main point in this discussion is the use of STANDARD English. In many cultures, the standards of language usage evolve among the professionals: scholars, journalists, statesmen and other communicators. When a particular usage, wherever its source and whatever its former status, is adapted by those “educated” groups, it becomes, per definition, standard. Thus, if “different than” supplants “different from” in common usage, then it becomes standard. Many of the words and phrases used by our best current and historic writers have undergone that process. A reading of some history of the English language would go a long way to illuminate these changes.

  50. Donald Dickerson says:

    So part of what also confounds this is the implied predicate. Saying, “That spoon is no different from this fork” states that the two are the same in all traits (it compares the traits of the objects). Saying “That spoon is no different than this fork” has an implied predicate presumable of “is”, which more correctly translates into “That spoon is no different from the way the fork is”. In this usage, “than” would be proper, as the implied predicate of than (existing in it being a conjunction) makes a distinctive meaning difference.

    In the example of “X has a different A from Y”–yes that is a correct form (think of it reading “X has a different A from the A that Y has”). Again, the implied predicate should also justify using than, as what is meant with than is “X has a different A than Y has”.

    This, I think, makes all the difference.

  51. Arcady7 says:

    I just came across this sentence: “Of course, the revelries that Dionysus inspires in The Bacchae are much different than your average party.” I tried changing it to “MUCH different FROM”. Which didn’t sound as good. On the other hand, “VERY different FROM” sounds fine. Is there any explanation for this, or is it just a temporary glitch in my brain?

  52. Steve says:

    the only way I can see a use of “different than” is this:
    Blue and orange are more different than blue and green.

  53. Hannah says:

    What about using “only slightly different than”? Does that qualify as a comparison, in your mind? I’d like to hear everyone’s take on that.

    Normally, I’m a strict “different from” gal. I am an editor, so it incumbent upon me to use standard English in print. However, using “different than” (which I don’t) is not a matter of laziness (i.e., moral turpitude). It’s a matter of the language changing in the natural scheme of things. The French government tries to prescribe correct grammar and usage, and it doesn’t work. Never did, never will.

  54. Broden says:

    My only struggle with using “different than” in a comparative sense is to supplant or recycle the statement, “X is the same as Y.” Saying that “X is no different than Y” does not flow well; it’s a little bit too clunky, but it’s a rudimentary way to express the idea that two normally uncommon nouns or verbs are synonymous, or they can still be associative within the same set of adjectives.

    Any insight on this matter would be greatly appreciated.

    • says:

      We would have to see what X and Y are in your examples. We feel that different from is the preferable choice whenever possible.

  55. Marius van Handel says:

    I tried the different language test. It gave no useful information. In Dutch (the closest living language to English besides Frisian), you can only say “different than.” In Spanish, you can only say “different from.” In Hebrew, you must say “A is greater from B.” There is no separate word “than” in Hebrew. Conclusion: in this case, different language test does not shed light on English usage. If you are wondering why I did not mention Sanskrit, Tocharian, Basque, or Kartvelian, the answer is simple: ignorance.

  56. Sabra says:

    As a former English teacher, I seek clarity on language points such as discussed here. At the moment, I just wrote this sentence/fragment, but I much prefer the use of “than”: a) Lovely to think of you getting to experience the world from an altogether different perspective from that within North America. b) Lovely to think of you getting to experience the world from an altogether different perspective than from (within) North America.

  57. Rose says:

    Thank you for reminding people that if in doubt of which was grammatically correct, different from or different than they only need apply a simple litmus test to get it correct! I learned this in basic grammar. I also believe different than is a colloquisim.

  58. Louis Machado says:

    Geez! The amount and total size of comments about this subject greatly exceeds the subject itself and could easily become a booklet in its own right!
    My two cents on this subject are, first of all, that, when this phrase should be of the form, “this is different from that”, both the “this” and the “that” have the “same” or parallel structure. I have not yet seen an example of “different than” in which such structure is not supposed to exist.
    Second, the phrase “different than” is a false parallel to other comparisons such as “greater than”, “less than”, “prettier than”, or “uglier than”. In these latter instances, there is a degree in which an attribute is greater or less. Different is not an attribute with degrees. It’s more like “equal” or “different”, with presumably no degrees in between. Therefore, using “than” with “different” is inappropriate and plain lazy.

  59. Bruce Braley says:

    I began reading this thread simply to confirm my belief that “different from” is correct, while “different than,” is not. Although some astute contributors managed to find constructions that made the use of “different than” grammatically correct, others managed to explain how and why that was possible, but very frequently awkward. In those instances, we were well advised to choose different words or construction. Sometimes, I choose different words or construction to avoid consulting a grammar forum. Today, I thoroughly enjoyed the discussion and read the entire exchange. With few exceptions, the arguments on both sides were very well expressed, even though sometimes wrong. Even in their “wrongness,” if I may, they contributed to the discussion and furthered our understanding. Kudos, All!

    I have taken only two courses focused on English grammar–one in high school (via a correspondence course) and the other toward my Master’s degree in teaching English as a second language (secondary education, mathematics).

    I learned a lot in the high school course that has served me well ever since. That experience confirmed that most of what sounds correct to me actually is. I often wonder how much more difficult it must be for others whose first language is not English or who grew up learning English from parents and teachers who did not consistently model correct usage so that they cannot usually tell what is correct by the fact that it sounds correct, as I usually can. I imagine it is quite a bit more challenging.

    I learned to diagram a sentence in the college course with a method that was more sophisticated and exacting than that used in my high school course. Having become a high school mathematics teacher who had changed majors from computer science, I believe I had a more profound appreciation for the approach than others, even perhaps than the instructor. The method was almost mathematical in its use of precise algorithms to analyze sentences. If there is one thing that is learned in computer science, it is that the computer does not think for itself. Every instruction must be given exactly in a completely unambiguous way, or the program either will not compile at all, or will compile, but behave as it was instructed, but not as intended. While human beings can frequently overcome ambiguity in sophisticated ways that computers cannot, we still misinterpret an intended meaning all too frequently. Some miscommunication can be the failure of the listener/reader to interpret carefully. Frequently, however, the fault is due to imprecise speech or writing. While we are all imperfect communicators, the careful use of correct grammar and spelling minimizes misinterpretation of our intended meaning. Taking care in composition tends to enhance our own understanding of what we are trying to express as well as helping our audience.

    I take issue with those who argue that language always evolves and that prescriptive grammar is pointless and/or stifling. Language does evolve, but as with evolution in nature, there are far more mutations that do not survive, because they are not as effective as others. We’ve all (at least, those of us who have lived a few decades) seen words and usage come and go in our language. I’ll wager that those usages that enhance understanding and do not tend to confuse persist because they are more useful in communication than those that are illogical or ambiguous. Because the latter are less “fit” they are less likely to survive.

    So is it wrong to champion logical, unambiguous usage, as the majority posting here have? Or would they be wiser accepting whatever monstrous mutations pop up in common usage that lead to degraded communication and “devolve” the language?

    I say we use our evolved minds to winnow out the monstrous from the beneficial (as the language “market” will eventually, anyway), and thus make our invaluable tool as effective as it can be.

  60. Hope says:

    While speaking of a historical figure, would it be correct to say “She might have looked differently than her statue depicts her”?

    Thank you in advance.

    • says:

      With sense verbs such as look, you must discern if the word is being used actively to decide whether to follow it with an adjective or an adverb. Since looked is not used actively in your sentence (she is not looking with her eyes), the adjective different should be used.

      As we point out in our followup article The Lowdown on Different Than, as a guideline, you would use “different from” as a separating phrase followed by a noun or a pronoun: She might have looked different from her statue. OR She might have looked different from how she is depicted in her statue. You would use “different than” as a comparative phrase usually followed by a clause: She might have looked different than she does depicted in her statue.

  61. GLENN TROESTER says:

    My goodness. I was just a young lad when I started reading this discussion Geoff triggered many years ago. Now I am a retired newspaper editor and publisher hiding out from COVID-19. Language sure kindles lifelong peeves.

  62. Char says:

    Is anyone else hearing more and more people say “different to”? It’s so strange when something like this starts to happen for no obvious reason. It makes me wonder if there was a meeting I missed.

  63. Shem says:

    I dasn’t lock horns with any of you erudite gentlemen and ladies, but I don’t think “Your hair looks different to me today” is a proper example of “different to.” I could be wrong, but isn’t the word “to” in the example teeing up the object “me”? We’re not comparing the hair of today to me, we’re comparing it to the hair of the past– say, yesterday. Isn’t that so?

    • says:

      The prepositional phrase “to me” is being used adverbially to modify the verb “looks.” It expresses the same thought as “from my viewpoint.” The sentence also can be written as “To me, your hair looks different today.”

  64. Eunice Betts says:

    I appreciate Geoffrey Lukens’ explanation. The paragraph laying out the reason for the use of “from” with the word “different” clearly and concisely proves its exclusionary aspect as opposed to simple comparison with “than.”

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