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definition of the word than

by the Wiktionnary

Rank of this word in the English language, from analyzing texts from Project Gutenberg.
has could our #64: than some other very

In etymology, it represents Old English þanne, which was a variant of þonne, meaning "then". It is therefore cognate with German denn ("than") and dann ("then"); in Danish the same word dan serves for both "then" and "than." It represents the old dative or instrumental case of the pronoun that.

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  1. introduces a comparison, and is associated with comparatives, and with words such as more, less, and fewer. Typically, it seeks to measure the force of an adjective or similar description between two predicates.
    Patients diagnosed more recently are probably surviving an average of longer than two years.

Usage prescriptionists have a number of rules concerning than. In formal grammar, than is not a preposition to govern the oblique case (although it has been used as such by writers such as William Shakespeare, whose 1600 play Julius Caesar contains the line A man no mightier than thyself or me. . ., and Samuel Johnson, who wrote No man had ever more discernment than him, in finding out the ridiculous.). Than functions as both conjunction and preposition; when it is used as a conjunction, it governs the nominative case, and when a preposition, the oblique case. To determine the case of a pronoun following "than", a writer can look to implied words and determine how they would relate to the pronoun.

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It must be noted that some prescriptionists insist that whom must follow than (not who); although according to the above rule, who would be the "correct" form. Critics of this often cite this mandatory exception as evidence that the prescriptionist rule is logically erroneous, in addition to it being inconsistent with well-established usage.

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