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|Different from versus Different than
by David Felts
Understanding the difference between different from and different than is important in writing in a clear and professional manner. This grammar tip explains the difference, the correctness, and the use of these words.
What is the Difference?
When to Use Different from
Ex.: My car is different from (not than) her car.
Ex.: The book I bought is different from the one sold in the bookstore.
It is important to remember that when using different from, the two things being compared (e.g. my car and her car in the first example) should have the same grammatical structure. This is called parallel construction. Here are a couple of examples:
Ex.: People in the field of literature write differently from people in the field of business.
Ex.: People in the field of literature write differently from those in the field of business.
When Different than is Acceptable
Because of increased use, different than is sometimes considered acceptable in American English. When in doubt, just use different from, as it is preferred by most people. According to the American Heritage Dictionary’s usage panel (1992), different than is acceptable only if the words following different than make up a clause—especially if the clause is elliptical (referring to an aforementioned context without restating it). Here’s an example:
Ex.: It seems so different than Paris.
In this example, if different from were used, Paris, the city, would be the object of comparison. Using different than creates a subtle distinction in meaning. Since different than is used, the clause following different than is interpreted as elliptical and suggests “the way things were in Paris” or "than Paris was" or “what happened in Paris.” If you have doubt when to use different than, you might just use different from following the parallel construction rule.
GRC Publishing. “Different to, Different from, Different than.” December 2004. 31 May 2005 <http://grcpublishing.grc.nasa.gov/WordOfWeekArchive/week58.cfm>
Bartleby. “98. Different from/ Different than.” 23 May 2005 <http://www.bartleby.com/64/C003/098.html>
|Recommended Grammar Website of the Week
by David Felts
Along with our website, www.uhv.edu/ac, we recommend the following site: Pacific Northwest National Laboratory Authors’ Guide. This site has a list of about 70 commonly confused words, such as different from and different than. Consider browsing the list for any words that you might need to review. Visit this site at http://www.pnl.gov/ag/usage/confuse.html.
|Test Your Knowledge
by David Felts
Test your knowledge by making any needed corrections to the following sentences.
1. My house is different than Jill’s house.
2. Is Bill that much different than him?
3. My copy of the article seems different than the professor's.
4. The level of compassion is different from sympathy.
1. My house is different from Jill’s house.
2. Is Bill that much different from him?
3. My copy of the article seems different from the professor’s copy.
4. His level of compassion is different from his level of sympathy.
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