Sunday, August 22, 2010

Different From vs. Different Than: Almost Interchangeable

Meghan e-mailed in with this question:
I never know whether to use different from or different than. Is there a difference? Or are they interchangeable?
Great question, Meghan! The phrases have been used almost interchangeably for centuries. In my book, that means either one is acceptable in most situations. (The Brits also throw different to into the mix.)

If you're writing professionally in the US, however, lean toward different from. Newspapers and magazines tend to base their style guides on at least one of the three big style bibles, the AP Stylebook, the Chicago Manual of Style, and/or Strunk & White's The Elements of Style; all three are clear in their preference for different from

Quick rules:
  • If writing for a publication, use different from.
  • Otherwise, when comparing two nouns, feel free to use either different from or different than. My picture turned out different than yours. My picture turned out different from yours. Both fine! 
  • When directly comparing a noun to a clause, use different than. The movie's ending is different than I remember it. In order to use different from in this sentence, you would need to add a few words. The movie's ending is different from the way I remember it. This way, the comparison is between two nouns: 'ending' and 'the way.'


  1. He is different than I(am different). Standard use with a subordinate clause - complex sentence - Different is now a subordinate conjunction.
    He is different than me (understood different than I). Informal or familiar use

    These____ are different from ours.
    Simple sentence - different - a mere adjective

  2. Informal, as in "incorrect."

  3. Snarky, your "Got a question.." should read "Have a question."

  4. The paraphrasing help is a great site.It will help you correct such basic and common errors also to correct vocabulary errors and grammatical errors.