I often mix up these words when I writing some short text quickly.

  1. than and then
  2. their and there
  3. this and these

I also have some hesitation about usage of 'than' and 'then'.

Is there a way that do not confuse these words?

  • 14
    There is, memorize them! :) Apr 25, 2017 at 11:19
  • 2
    Indeed, it's common for NNS like us to confuse "than" for "then" etc., but the only right way to ensure you won't mistake them for each other is using them -- That's how native speakers aren't conflating these words. This question is akin to "how to memorize the periodic table" on my home site.
    – M.A.R.
    Apr 25, 2017 at 11:46
  • 2
    By the way, I haven't downvoted this, but if you do get downvoted, please know that this question is probably off-topic as it is "not constructive, because what works well for one learner may not work so well for another," but on the other hand, I think a lot of learners would have the same question, which is why I had answered it. Apr 25, 2017 at 11:47
  • 2
    The fact that you are asking about writing text quickly indicates there's no simple answer. No matter how thoroughly you understand the difference, no matter what mnemonics you devise to separate them, you're always susceptible to just skipping through and forgetting to even use your mnemonics. Practice is the only real answer. Apr 25, 2017 at 15:57
  • 2
    A substantial number of native English speakers confuse "then" and "than", and "their" and "their" (and "they're" too) in written communications as well.
    – asgallant
    Apr 25, 2017 at 18:11

3 Answers 3


I've upvoted user178049's comment about just memorizing them, but here are some mnemonics to get you started:

  1. Then v. Than

thEn = nExt

If you don't mean "next," then don't write "then" (generally).

  1. Their v. There

"THERE" is "NoT HERE."

If you mean "noT HERE," then write "there."

Also watch out for the contraction of "they are," "they're," which many native speakers will confuse as well since all three are pretty much homophones.

  1. This v. These

ONE "i" in "thIs," TWO "e"'s in "thEsE."

"This" is for singular nouns (ONE) and "these" is for plural nouns (TWO).

For many native speakers, "then v. than" and "there v. their" give many people trouble as well when writing because their spelling and pronunciation are so similar.

But for "this v. these," you should really get the two straight as soon as possible as they are pronounced differently.

What I mean is, if you continue having trouble, it may be your pronunciation.

"This" sounds like "kiss" and "these" sounds like "bees."

Good luck and hope this helps!

  • 6
    +1 But: I think then very often means at that time (as opposed to next). By far the most common usage of there is in existential sentences (where it doesn't really mean not here - unless you understand that in an existential sense too). Still, very nice mnemonics! Apr 25, 2017 at 12:27
  • 2
    For "then/than" I just think how stupid it sounds to say "and than I went to the store". Sadly this probably only works for native/very familiar English speakers, but since they do sound slightly different it works for me.
    – JMac
    Apr 25, 2017 at 18:47
  • 1
    I agree, @AraucariaMan (and have upvoted your comment accordingly), and in fact, personally, I think that just memorizing which to use when is the best way to learn them. But perhaps a combination of all the answers submitted so far by Max, sirjonsnow and me is what would work best for the OP. Apr 26, 2017 at 9:37
  1. Use than for comparison.

    (It might help to pronounce it as "comparisan".)
    I am taller than you.

  2. There is a hare in their chair [over there].

    The first "there" is used to show existence. Their shows possession. You can include "over there". "Over there" is often used to say that something is in the distance (location, not here).

  3. 1 This goose is mine. -BUT-
    2 These geese are ours.

    Use this for the singular case, like goose and mine (I, one person). Use these for the plural case, like geese and ours (we, more than one person).

  • 2
    2 is a homophone for "There is a hair on the chair over there" and "hair" is a more common word than hare, while suggesting the wrong spelling for "there!" Apr 25, 2017 at 15:54

I think the other answers are correct, but it's easier for me to just remember:

THEN is for time or order. Do this, then that.
THAN is comparison. I'd rather do this than that.

THEIR is possessive. Their house is nice.
THERE is location. The house over there is nice.

THIS is singular. This chair is heavy.
THESE is plural. These chairs are heavy.

  • 3
    OP already knows the meaning of the words. He is asking for a mnemonic aid in order not to confuse them in writing. Apr 25, 2017 at 20:29
  • 1
    I agree with TulainsCórdova's comment that the OP was looking for tips and tricks to help the OP remember the difference, but I've still upvoted this answer because I also agree that it is almost sometimes easier to just memorize the words and their definitions in context. Apr 26, 2017 at 9:35
  • 1
    I've never been good with mnemonics, to me they're generally harder to remember, so I just keep these truncated definitions in mind.
    – sirjonsnow
    Apr 26, 2017 at 11:55

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