Wednesday’s Words: Different from, different than, or different to?

False teeth4Sometimes an expression just hits you as wrong, but you can’t say why. A “dentist” in a TV commercial for a popular denture cleanser said “dentures are different to real teeth.” I couldn’t let it pass, so I put on my sleuth’s cap and started sleuthing – much to my eventual dissatisfaction.

The most in-depth source claimed that “different” is not a comparative word, but one of contrast. The word “than” should actually follow a comparative adjective – that would indicate using “different from.” “Different than” cannot be substituted for “different from” but is sometimes useful as an idiom or for beginning clauses if “different from” would be awkward. The construction “different to” is primarily British usage. All that sounds good to me.

HOWEVER, numerous other sources claim there is basically no difference, except for the British origin of “different to.” I can’t stand equivocation! Think I’ll go with “different from.”

Tomorrow, The Gruesome Repurposing of an Egyptian Monument

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4 Comments

Filed under Wednesday's Words

4 responses to “Wednesday’s Words: Different from, different than, or different to?

  1. Rita, a lot of these things are usage-dependent. “Different to” is definitely Brit. Another one is arrive to/arrive at. You arrive AT a place, or you arrive TO do something. So arriving at work is very different from arriving to work. But you never arrive to your workplace. And I won’t even get started on come into/come in to.

    • You are my expert. The “arrive at” and “arrive to” make sense to me. What amazed me was the ambiguity of the websites I checked. My books were more definitive.

  2. It’s often useful to come up with a synonym and try it with the alternatives being considered, e.g., distinct. “Distinct from” clearly sounds better than “distinct than.” Therefore, I go with Rita and Nikki.

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