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A reader writes:

“Should I use ‘then‘ or ‘than‘ in this sentence? What is a hotter ticket ____ a ticket for the Elton John concert …”

Another reader wtires:

“I tell folks that ‘then‘ is time-related (‘back then‘ or ‘then we did that’); ‘than‘ is used to compare things (‘better than‘).”

This is a good tip.

We could really have fun and mess with the original question, thinking back to a wonderful time in music, by saying:

“What was a hotter ticket then than a ticket for the Elton John concert?”

We still follow the rule … using then to refer to time and than to compare.

Now, how about this little helpful tip/trick: Then rhymes with when (refers to time). Than has an a in it and so does compare.

then. adverb.
1. at that time: Prices were lower then. 
2. immediately or soon afterward: The rain stopped and then started again. 
3. next in order of time: We ate, then we started home. 
4. at the same time: At first the water seemed blue, then gray. 
5. next in order of place: Standing beside Charlie is my uncle, then my cousin, then my brother. 
6. in addition; besides; also: I love my job, and then it pays so well. 
7. in that case; as a consequence; in those circumstances: If you’re sick, then you should stay in bed. 
8. since that is so; as it appears; therefore: You have, then, found the mistake? You are leaving tonight then. 

then. adjective.
9. being; being such; existing or being at the time indicated: the then prime minister. 

then. noun
10. that time: We have not been back since then. Till then, farewell. 

than. conjunction
1. (used, as after comparative adjectives and adverbs, to introduce the second member of an unequal comparison): She’s taller than I am. 
2. (used after some adverbs and adjectives expressing choice or diversity, such as other, otherwise, else, anywhere, or different, to introduce an alternative or denote a difference in kind, place, style, identity, etc.): I had no choice other than that. You won’t find such freedom anywhere else than in this country. 
3. (used to introduce the rejected choice in expressions of preference): I’d rather walk than drive there. 
4. except; other than: We had no choice than to return home. 
5. when: We had barely arrived than we had to leave again. 

than. preposition
6. in relation to; by comparison with (usually fol. by a pronoun in the objective case): He is a person than whom I can imagine no one more courteous.

Source: Dictionary.com (see usage note)

UPDATE: We found this paragraph on a wikiHow article. It needs a “than” in place of an “as” because the writer is making a comparison. Take a look.

(click here for the real story)

“A recumbent bike is any bike where the rider is in a reclined position. These bikes are more comfortable to ride (once you get used to it!) and faster because of reduced wind resistance. However, there’s a bit of a learning curve when it comes to balancing, starting, stopping and maneuvering a recumbent bike (as there is with an upright bike) but once you nail it down, you’ll wonder why more people aren’t riding them!”

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