Teaching Students About the Difference Between Than and Then

Teaching English grammar can often be a tricky task, especially when it comes to homophones, words that sound the same but have different spellings and meanings. One common pair of homophones that students often struggle with is “than” and “then.” Both words are pronounced the same, but mean entirely different things, making it crucial to educate students about the difference between them.

What is ‘than’?

“Than” is a conjunction that is used to compare two things or make a distinction. A simple example would be: “I like pizza more than burgers.” Here, “than” is used to compare pizza and burgers and make a distinction between them.

For students, it is important to teach them that “than” always follows a comparative adjective, such as more, less, and better. Without these comparative adjectives, it is not grammatically correct to use “than” in a sentence.

What is ‘then’?

“Then” is an adverb that refers to a specific time or a sequence of events. “Then” is often used to indicate that one action occurred after another. For example: “I woke up early, then I went for a walk.” Here, “then” indicates the sequence of events that occurred, with the speaker waking up early before going for a walk.

It is crucial for students to understand the difference between “than” and “then” and to use them appropriately in their writing and speaking. Failing to do so can result in incorrect grammar and confusion for the reader.

Teaching strategies for ‘than’ or ‘then’

When teaching students how to use “than” and “then” correctly, try these helpful strategies:

1. Mnemonics:

Mnemonics are memory aids that make it easier for students to remember a particular grammar rule. A helpful mnemonic for “than” is to remember that it’s used for making a comparison; the word “comparison” itself contains the word “than.”
A mnemonic for “then” could be to remember that it’s used for a sequence of events, similar to the word “next.”

2. Practice:

Practice assignments can reinforce the difference between “than” and “then.” Giving students exercises that require them to use both words correctly in context helps them to understand the difference between them.

3. Visual Aids:

Visual aids, such as posters that show the difference between “than” and “then,” can be helpful for students who are visual learners. The posters could contain examples of each word used correctly in a sentence, as well as an explanation of their meanings.

In conclusion, teaching the difference between “than” and “then” is vital for students to improve their language skills and clear communication. By providing students with strategies for understanding these two tricky homophones, teachers can help them master the use of these words in both writing and speaking.

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