Friday, October 19, 2012

Grammar lesson 5

Often you will hear or read that something is different than something else.

For example, someone might state the truism that "women are different than men." But that would be bad grammar. The way it should be stated is "women are different from men."

Why?

Well, if instead of using the word different you stated the truism using the word differ, the reason becomes obvious. You wouldn't say "women differ than men." You would say "women differ from men." Therefore, you should say "women are different from men."

What's the difference between from and than?

The word than, like from, is a preposition. It usually follows an adjective when drawing a specific contrast between people, things, or conditions.
  • Florida is hotter than Minnesota.
  • Trees are bigger than bugs.
  • Cars are faster than tricycles.
Notice the specific contrasts in those examples. "Hotter, bigger, faster." It's easy to see how two things are being contrasted. In statements using those types of adjectives, you use the word than. But when two things are simply different, that doesn't really tell you anything. How are men and women different? How exactly does Florida differ from Minnesota? You don't know, do you? So that's why the word than doesn't follow the word different.

Except...

And here's where the English language is once again...different from many others. If a clause (instead of just a noun or pronoun) follows the word different, go ahead and use than.

For instance, it would be correct to say, "Writing about grammar is different than I expected it to be."  

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