I am, Mr. E. People use "than" as a conjunction all the time in my part of the world.
WR's dictionary has this to say about "than" after "different":
Although it is frequently claimed that different should be followed only by from, not by than, in actual usage both words occur and have for at least 300 years. From is more common today in introducing a phrase, but than is also used.
And this: Regardless of the sentence construction, both from and than are standard after different in all varieties of spoken and written American English.
As far as I can tell, WR doesn't even insist that "than" be used as a conjunction rather than a preposition. When I hear it used after "different", "than" is often a conjunction, and that usage is pretty common. I probably hear it more often than "from" in my neck of the woods: He's different than your brother is.
I agree with RM1, Parla, Langton's Aunt (and probably ewie, reading between the lines).
It's not really a question of whether "than" can be used as a conjunction, but of whether (as a preposition or a conjunction) it's normal/accepted/logical/standard/etc after "different". If you use the 'Dictionary and thread title search' to search for different from than, you'll find several threads that discuss the subject.
"Different than" is widely used and accepted in AmE. It's much rarer in BrE (though not entirely unknown, as e2efour's post shows: personally I would never say those two sentences, e2e*).
*The reason that "different than" would stick in my throat is simply that "different" is not a comparative adjective (even though its meaning indicates comparison). The comparative form of "different" is "more different", with which I would use "than". For that reason, "different than" sounds as bizarre to me as "big than" or "fast than" (not for reasons of grammatical purity, but because the words just don't make sense to me.) And "different than" would really mess up a sentence such as "Giraffes are more different from mice than dogs are from cats".
As far as I know, there's no difference in meaning. Our dictionary's observations about the use of "different than" sound right to me. I've heard that combination used all my life, and it never occurred to me that some of us didn't like it until I joined the forum and saw a few objections. I've always assumed that there's an implied "is" after "than" and that "than" is a conjunction in the construction, but maybe I'm wrong. There are many examples of "than" used as a preposition after "different". COCA offers thousands of examples, and these are typical:
But how is that differentthan Mitt Romney who took some positions when he was a governor of Massachusetts and...
...but confounded Western diplomacy with him extensively and made him very, very differentthan his father,
Religion is differentthan relationship.
Here's an example that uses "is" after "than": ...because in February, you had the poll, the partisan spread was eight points differentthan it is now.
Do you have a problem with "had been" in this sentence? After all, it's just a conjugation of "be": She needed to go home and think about the fact that her life was entirely differentthan it had been when she woke up that morning. I sure don't see any need to change that phrasing into "different from what it had been".
Do you three have a problem with "had been" in this sentence? After all, it's just a conjugation of "be": She needed to go home and think about the fact that her life was entirely differentthan it had been when she woke up that morning.
Both are awkward, but the former (i.e. "from") is in fact grammatically correct. A better way of putting it would be to avoid the auxiliary verb altogether, as in "Chess differs from backgammon in these important aspects [...]"
I know that there's a transatlantic divide over "diffferent than"; but is there also a regional divide within the US? Do the western states use "different than" and the eastern states not use it? Or is there something else going on here?
Here are some statistics from The Guardian and The Miami Herald respectively, comparing different to, from and than:
"from, British 89 percent, American 65 percent; than, British 3 percent, American 35 percent; to, British 8 percent, American none.
A study based on a corpus of American English spoken by professional people (Iyeiri, Yaguchi, and Okabe 2004) found 98 tokens of different from and 91 tokens of different than (followed by a nominal). CIC [The Cambridge International Corpus] British texts have the following iptmw*of from, to, and than after different: respectively, 242.7, 44.3, and 5.0; American texts have 234.2, 1.0, and 91.1."
(Algeo, British or American English? A Handbook of Word and Grammar Patterns, 2006)
Hi, atf. "Different than" is restricted to the verb "be", so you have to come up with a clause that uses "be" naturally: Her life was different than it had been. It's easy, of course, to use "than" after "differently": I think about it differently than you do.
I deliberately avoid the word 'correct' in discussions such as this, since English has no ultimate authority to decide what is or isn't correct. In post #10 I suggested that it was a question of being 'normal/accepted/logical/standard/etc' (and I probably missed a few other yardsticks).
The fact that people (which people?) were using "different than" 300 years ago does indeed provide evidence of usage (rare?, occasional?, common? ... don't know). But that begs the question of whether it was considered normal or was widely accepted. I have to sympathise with Ricky's point. Maybe 300 years from now some of the linguistic horrors we can find via Google or Twitter will have gained ground, and their defenders will be saying "But look, Google's (or the NSA's?) archives shows as what them things was used 300 years ago, innit! So you carnt reely say as they's not correct."
Here is what the OED has to say about different in this sort of construction.
1. b. Const. from; also to, than (†against, †with).
The usual construction is now with from; that with to (after unlike, dissimilar to) is found in writers of all ages, and is frequent colloquially, but is by many considered incorrect. The construction with than (after other than), is found in Fuller, Addison, Steele, De Foe, Richardson, Goldsmith, Miss Burney, Coleridge, Southey, De Quincey, Carlyle, Thackeray, Newman, Trench, and Dasent, among others: see F. Hall Mod. English iii. 82.
1769 O. Goldsmith Rom. Hist. I. 105 The consuls..had been elected for very different merits, than those of skill in war.
(It's a shame that we have wasted time reading all those lazy writers. )
Usage Different from, different than, and different to: are there any distinctions between these three constructions, and is one more correct than the others? In practice, different from is both the most common structure, both in British and US English, and the most accepted. Different than is used chiefly in North America, although its use is increasing in British English. It has the advantage that it can be followed by a clause, and so is sometimes more concise than different from: compare things are definitely different than they were one year ago with things are definitely different from the way they were one year ago. Different to is common in Britain, but is disliked by traditionalists. The argument against it is based on the relation of different to differ, which is used with from; but this is a flawed argument which is contradicted by other pairs of words such as accord (with) and according (to).
Thanks for the information, Cagey The OED's comments look reasonable and accurate to me.
I just wanted to add that I'm not a big fan of "than" as a preposition: I'm different/better/taller than him. However, I'm pretty sure that standard English accepts this construction. I really want to hear a clause after "than", and that's how I use it: She's taller/different than I am.
- She's taller than I am. >> So however tall I am, she's taller.
- She's different than I am. >> So however different I am, she's different ??
- I'm different from John. She's different from John. But she's more different from John than I am.
- I'm different than John is. She's different than John is. But she's more different than John is than I am ...??
Try as I will, OM, I can't get my head round that usage.
Hi, Ws. To me, this is just a way of splitting the meaning of a plural "be" into parts to accommodate singular subjects on each side of a comparison: We are different. = I am different than he is.
I've never tied myself in knots wondering about the meaning of "be" in the construction.* To me, that makes no more sense than wondering about the meaning of "be" in "We are different."
I don't assume that "different" is being used twice in the remark: I am different from him = I am different from what he is = I am different than he is
But I'm sure not trying to talk anybody out of a preference for "from" after "different". You can express the same ideas with this combination, so there isn't any harm in avoiding "than" nor any big advantage in using it.
*Back in my twenties, I was foolish enough to attempt reading Sartre's Being and Nothingness. Despite two or three attempts, I never made it past the first few pages.
OK. I'm not really trying to talk anybody out of using "different than" either (at least in AmE). Given the number of people who use it, that would probably be a futile exercise.
And I wasn't thinking about the meaning of "be", but of "than". My feelings about "different than" (or indeed "differently than") would be the same whatever verb it was used with.
I guess I was being a bit obscure with my example where I used "different" twice. What I was really trying to show was that, for regular adjectives (and adverbs) that have positive, comparative and superlative forms, "than" is used with the comparative form:
- tall — taller (than) — tallest
- beautiful — more beautiful (than) — most beautiful
- different — more different (than) — most different
But I'm not saying that for grammatical reasons. It's semantic; it's about the meaning of "than" as I know it. When I hear "than", my brain automatically looks for an "-er" or a "more". With "different than" it doesn't find one. (Does not compute! Exterminate!)
Take the example of "Giraffes are more different from mice than dogs are from cats". For a "different than" user who's versatile enough to switch to "different from", that sentence is possible. But for people who know and use only "different than", it becomes gibberish: "Giraffes are more different than mice than dogs are than cats".