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Hi,
it seems many native speakers are confused and don't know how to spell "than", and they write "then" instead. But...

...how is that possible? I think "then" and "than" are pronounced differently, aren't they? Emotion: smile
Comments  
Yes, they are pronounced differently. 99.9% of the time than is unstressed (with a schwa for a vowel) and then is stressed.

CJ
many native speakers are confused and don't know how to spell "than",

I wouldn't say that is a common problem?
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Hi Nona,
I've seen native speakers write "then" instead of "than". I found this, the title is "Some common grammar and usege mistakes in undergraduate philosophy papers"
http://www2.gsu.edu/~phltso/grammar&usage.html

I remember meeting a Californian (native) programmer in a chat room once, and he told me he didn't really know the difference between "then" and "than".
Yup, it's true. They are often mispelled. Although many people do actually distinguish them in speech, the difference seems to be too subtle for most people, so they actually have to learn the definition of "then" and "than" in order to spell it correctly. But, surprisingly enough, most people do say them distinctly, as Califjim said.
That is quite surprising. (mind you, we are talking about Americans here...Emotion: stick out tongue hope Grammar Geek doesn't see this)
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"...shee hath more haire then wit, and more
faults then haires, and more wealth then faults..."


I think it must have been Shakespeare who started all the confusion between 'then' and 'than'... Emotion: stick out tongue
Yankee"...shee hath more haire then wit, and more
faults then haires, and more wealth then faults..."


I think it must have been Shakespeare who started all the confusion between 'then' and 'than'... Emotion: stick out tongue
For your information, here is the etymology:

then
adverb of time, from O.E. þanne, þænne, þonne, from P.Gmc. *thana- (cf. O.Fris. thenne, O.S. thanna, Du. dan, O.H.G. danne, Ger. dann), from PIE demonstrative pronoun root *to- (see the). For further sense development, see than. Similar evolutions in other Gmc. languages; Du. uses dan in both senses, but Ger. has dann (adv.) "then," denn (conj.) "than." Now and then "at various times" is attested from c.1550; earlier then and then (c.1205).

than
O.E. þan, conjunctive particle used after a comparative adj. or adv., from þanne, þænne, þonne "then" (see then). Developed from the adverb then, and not distinguished from it in spelling until c.1700. The earliest use is in W.Gmc. comparative forms, i.e. bigger than (cf. Du. dan, Ger. denn), which suggests a semantic development from the demonstrative sense of then: A is bigger than B, evolving from A is bigger, then ("after that") B. Or the word may trace to O.E. þonne "when, when as," such as "When as" B is big, A is more Emotion: football.

http://www.etymonline.com /

Shakespeare might not have been that bad after all.

I don't think people today are really aware of the etymology; I believe they just mistake one for another. But it's quite funny and interesting that they've gotten back to the root. Emotion: smile

Maybe some Californians tend to confuse them more than the others. Maybe because the e in "then" tends toward a stressed a in "than", and the unstressed a in than (schwa) tends toward the e in "then". I'm not sure of that shift, but I'm sure Marvin knows of something similar.
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