than (thăn, thən)
1. Used after a comparative adjective or adverb to introduce the second element or clause of an unequal comparison: She is a better athlete than I.
2. Used to introduce the second element after certain words indicating difference: He draws quite differently than she does.
3. When. Used especially after hardly and scarcely: I had scarcely walked in the door than the commotion started.
In comparison or contrast with: could run faster than him; outclassed everyone other than her.
[Middle English, from Old English thanne, than; see to- in the Appendix of Indo-European roots.]
Usage Note: Since the 1700s, grammarians have insisted that than should be regarded as a conjunction in all its uses, so that a sentence such as Bill is taller than Tom should be construed as an elliptical version of the sentence Bill is taller than Tom is. According to this view, the case of a pronoun following than is determined by whether the pronoun serves as the subject or object of the verb that is "understood." Thus, the standard rule requires Pat is taller than I (not me) on the assumption that this sentence is elliptical for Pat is taller than I am. But the rule allows The news surprised Pat more than me, because this sentence is taken as elliptical for The news surprised Pat more than it surprised me. But this analysis is somewhat contrived. Than is quite commonly treated as a preposition when followed by an isolated noun phrase, and it often occurs with a pronoun in the objective case: John is taller than me. In such sentences using the nominative case (than I) can sound unnatural and even pretentious, and objecting to the objective case of the pronoun may sound pedantic. · In comparisons using than and as, the second element should be phrased to parallel the first, and faulty parallelism can arise especially when prepositional phrases are involved. In the sentence They felt that the condition of the new buildings was not much better than the old ones, the condition of the new buildings is compared with the old buildings themselves, not with their condition. The pronoun that must be added to balance the noun condition. The noun can be repeated instead, but in either case the prepositional phrase with of must follow: They felt that the condition of the new buildings was not much better than that (or than the condition) of the old ones. Similar parallelism should follow as: I want the photos in our brochure to look as impressive as those in their brochure (not I want the photos in our brochure to look as impressive as their brochure). · Than and as comparisons pose additional problems when the noun following than or as is the subject or object of an implied clause. Does the sentence The employees are more suspicious of the arbitrator than the owner mean that the employees distrust the arbitrator more than they distrust the owner or that the employees distrust the arbitrator more than the owner does? To clarify this, a verb must be added to the second element of the comparison: The employees are more suspicious of the arbitrator than they are of the owner or The employees are more suspicious of the arbitrator than the owner is. See Usage Note at as1.
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2018 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
The American Heritage Dictionary Blog
Check out our blog, updated regularly, for new words and revised definitions, interesting images from the 5th edition, discussions of usage, and more.
American Heritage Dictionary Products
The American Heritage Dictionary, 5th Edition
The American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms
The American Heritage Roget's Thesaurus
Curious George's Dictionary
The American Heritage Children's Dictionary
The American Heritage Dictionary of Indo-European Roots
The American Heritage Student Grammar Dictionary
The American Heritage Desk Dictionary + Thesaurus
The American Heritage Science Dictionary
The American Heritage Dictionary of Business Terms
The American Heritage Student Dictionary
The American Heritage Essential Student Thesaurus