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Different than

This sounds highly ungrammatical to English ears, yet seems to be an increasingly common US usage (cf Br Eng “different from”, “different to”). If it is indeed considered correct, surely this makes the use of the word “than” in this context uniquely non-comparative - in all other cases that I can think of it has a comparative function - eg “faster than an eagle” or even “Icelanders are even more different from average Europeans than the Danish”. American speakers, any comments?

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How can different from be correct? "From" is a preposition that implies direction. "Than" is a preposition that implies comparison. If Billie is different from David, does David give Billie difference?

Brian November 29, 2005, 11:29pm

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Personally, I hate "different than" and go out of my way to avoid using it. But, strangely, when I hear it used, I rarely mind. Some usages sound better to my ear than others do, though.

Bad-sounding usages:

"His hat is different than her hat."
"You are different than any girl I've ever known."
"It's different than you think it is."

Somewhat OK-sounding usages:

"Our stock portfolio is different in many ways than it was during the early 80s oil boom."
"Her wedding gown was different than those of her four older sisters'."

I frankly do not know why some usages sound better to me. I do know that I can't think, offhand, of any other comparative that uses the word "from," except words that literally indicate increasing distance, such as "further." (Example: "She was further from the buffet than she was from the dance floor.")

Bear in mind that I have lived in Texas for seven years and in the American South for fifteen years before that.

speedwell2 November 8, 2004, 2:23pm

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Bad edit, sorry... the example sentence above should read "...those of her four older sisters."

speedwell2 November 8, 2004, 2:24pm

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What always puzzled me is the written expression "it's different then your hat", until I realised that it's a mere spelling error for 'than'.

Perenna November 9, 2004, 12:41am

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X differs from Y
X is different than Y
X differs in respect to Y

Hope this helps.

mike November 9, 2004, 9:10pm

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The best, largest and highly esteemed English-Finnish dictionary lists prepositions used with different: "~ from (everyday also to, than)".

Perenna November 10, 2004, 12:44am

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Mike, not in correct British English, it doesn't.

Charlene November 10, 2004, 5:12am

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Mike wrote:

"X differs from Y"
"X is different than Y"
"X differs in respect to Y"

These usages are the preferred ones:

"X differs from Y in that..."
"X is different from Y..."
"X differs with respect to Y..."

speedwell2 November 10, 2004, 8:37am

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"Different than" has recently been bugging me. I do not know why this suddenly cropped up in my mind as something else to be annoyed about!

Every time I hear "Different than" in someone's speech, I quietly replace it in my mind with "Different from," and it always sounds better.

I discovered this site "Pain in the English" while Googling this "different from/than," issue—and now I've joined it!!

I'd like to see more comments on this. When I searched Different from or Different than, nothing came up. Then I looked up "Different than" and it got me here.

Wendalore May 8, 2014, 9:20am

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Yes     No