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Jo
03-19-2006, 10:04 AM
Hiya grammarites!

When using the conjunction "than" in a sentence, should you use the preposition "from" instead, if the usage is for comparisons of inequality? My question stems from here:

(link to website removed - purpose served)

As much as I would love to link the opening poster in the above thread to the "than I" or "than me" thread to illustrate the conjunction "than", I'd rather find more specific answers.

Thanks in advance!

maestrowork
03-19-2006, 10:13 AM
He's different from us.

reph
03-19-2006, 10:36 AM
He looks different from us. --preposition + object

He looks different from his photo. --preposition + object

He looks different than his photo would make you think. --conjunction + clause

He dances differently than we do. --conjunction + clause

The paint is a different color than she expected. --conjunction + clause

The paint is a different color than the swatch. --conjunction + partial clause. (This is the tricky one. Full version: The paint is a different color than the swatch is. Or, I suppose, The paint is a different color than the swatch is a color. Uh.)

Tish Davidson
03-19-2006, 11:03 AM
The paint is a different color than the swatch. --conjunction + partial clause. (This is the tricky one. Full version: The paint is a different color than the swatch is. Or, I suppose, The paint is a different color than the swatch is a color. Uh.)

Or you could just rewrite the sentence to read The paint differs in color from that of the swatch.

Jo
03-19-2006, 11:44 AM
So, "Girls are different than boys." (are) -- conjunction + partial clause?

Or... "Girls differ from boys." -- preposition + object

I think I'm getting it... (It comes naturally in speech, but I've never dissected it like this! Thank you!)

reph
03-19-2006, 12:15 PM
So, "Girls are different than boys." (are) -- conjunction + partial clause?
No, and the way to tell is, if you try to complete the sentence by supplying missing "ghost words" like this: "Girls are different than boys are," or "Girls are different than boys are different," you get nonsense.

Girls aren't different than boys are something (fill in the blank). Girls are just different from boys, period. Girls and boys are different. Girls differ from boys. Girls and boys differ.


Or you could just rewrite the sentence to read The paint differs in color from that of the swatch.
"The paint differs in color from the swatch" or "The color of the paint differs from that of the swatch." The latter would feel out of place in fiction unless you had a stiff, academic narrator saying it. The former too, but a little less so.

Jo
03-19-2006, 03:01 PM
Thanks, Reph. I can see what you mean, although I find "girls are different from boys" doesn't roll off my tongue at all. Meh. Must be an Aussie/British English thing! (Although, Maestro's "He's different from us" made perfect sense to me and my tongue...? I'm going nuts!)

In my travels (okay, I'm still in the process of researching this -- curiosity is a curse ;) ), I did find this link interesting:

http://www.bartleby.com/64/C003/098.html

(I questioned the use of "to" instead of "from" in my previous link -- now I can see it may stem from my upbringing.)

pianoman5
03-19-2006, 03:33 PM
In Australia and the UK we are typically taught that "different than" is an unacceptable Americanism, despite its history in writing of quality and its usefulness in certain circumstances, as in some of the above examples. Far more common in Oz and the UK are "different from" and "different to".

According to the Collins Cobuild Bank of English, the distribution pattern of preposition usage after "different" is as follows:


- "from" "to" "than"
----- ---- -----
U.K. writing - 87.6 10.8 1.5
U.K. speech - 68.8 27.3 3.9
U.S. writing - 92.7 0.3 7.0
U.S. speech - 69.3 0.6 30.1

Jo
03-19-2006, 04:43 PM
In Australia and the UK we are typically taught that "different than" is an unacceptable Americanism, despite its history in writing of quality and its usefulness in certain circumstances, as in some of the above examples.

But I'm Australian?! My education (South Australia -- Aussie parents) must've been atypical... :tongue along with that of my husband (educated in South Australia and South Africa -- English/Welsh parents), and my children (educated in two states and many schools). We were taught (and influenced by those around us) to use "different than".

We actually use a saying "It's different than that!" in frustration when we're trying to explain something to someone who "isn't getting it".

Interesting stats, though, Pianoman. Thanks. :)

reph
03-19-2006, 11:04 PM
In British and Australian usage, how do you complete this sentence?

"The weather is different ____ it was yesterday."

By U.S. grammatical conventions, "than" has to go there.

loquax
03-19-2006, 11:55 PM
If I was pushed, I would use "than", but if I was writing it in my novel, I wouldn't use either. I would fill "the weather is ...... than it was yesterday" with an adjective plus "more" or an -er suffix.

The weather is colder than it was yesterday.
The weather is stranger than it was yesterday.
The weather is more unreliable than it was yesterday.

"The weather is different than it was yesterday" just doesn't ring true with me.

pianoman5
03-20-2006, 03:44 AM
Yes, same here, Loquax.

If pressed I'd say, "The weather is different to what it was yesterday". That being clumsy, however, it's more usual here to express the thought in another way -- anything to avoid the dreaded "different than..."

reph
03-20-2006, 04:09 AM
Even when the examples are clumsy and uneconomical (same as in the "It's I" thread), they illustrate what's customary in different parts of the world.

Do you say "The weather is different than I expected"? "He was taller than I thought"?

pianoman5
03-20-2006, 04:40 AM
What I meant, reph, is that our use of "to" and "from" often requires the addition of a "what" or "that which" so there is a (pro)noun to compare with, and it's clumsy compared to using "than".

So in your example we might write, "The weather is different to what I expected" or "The weather is different to that which I expected", neither of which exactly trip off the tongue -- hence the tendency to use a different construct.

Your second example - "He was taller than I thought" - is, I suspect, universal.