1. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Different ...

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by minstrel, Dec 20, 2011.

    Do you say "different from", or "different to", or "different than"?

    I grew up in Canada, and we'd say, for example, "Cats are different from dogs." I've heard people from the UK say "Cats are different to dogs."

    Yesterday I heard somebody say "Cats are different than dogs." I don't think I'd heard that construction before.

    Which do you use? And which is more correct?
     
  2. Raki
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    Raki Contributing Member

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    I may use "different than" in dialogue, but I'd go with the correct "different from" in most cases. A google search turns up a lot about this subject, but it's also listed in several style books. The Elements of Style lists "different than" under their "Words and Expressions Commonly Misused":

     
  3. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    'from' or 'than'... 'to' would make no sense...
     
  4. art
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    art Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think - not sure - but I probably use all three...in speech at least.

    Brits use 'to' a lot. Absolutely no problem with it. Technically fine.
     
  5. TeeBee2011
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    TeeBee2011 Member

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    We use 'to' in the UK nearly all the time. Don't often hear 'from' or 'than'
     
  6. madhoca
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    madhoca Contributing Member Contributor

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    In Britain, and for international English grammar tests, only 'different from' OR 'different to' is acceptable. 'Different TO' is usual use, especially in academic writing. 'Different than' is definitely considered substandard or idiomatic use.
    It is something that comes up in tests all the time, contrasted with 'the same AS'.
     
  7. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    figures!... you folks also drive on the wrong side of the road and have useless 'u's in a lot of your words... ;-)
     
  8. Jhunter
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    Jhunter Mmm, bacon. Contributor

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    Here in America I would use "different than" for writing and in real life. As would most Americans I would assume.
     
  9. Cacian
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    Cacian Banned

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    'different from'
     
  10. arron89
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    arron89 Banned

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    Different to. None of the others make sense to me.
     
  11. Jhunter
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    Jhunter Mmm, bacon. Contributor

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    Pulled this off an American writing sight; so it at least explains why we use "than."

    "Use than as a word indicating comparison. When you are talking about a noun (thing, person, place or concept) being more, less, better, cooler, dumber, etc. in relation to another noun, the word than is necessary."
     
  12. Marge
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    Marge Member

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    Interesting… “from” sounds right to me, though after listening to y’all I’m not entirely sure it’s the correct term anymore. :D

    I’m Canadian, and very rarely do I hear anyone use “than” and certainly not “to”.
     
  13. Raki
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    Raki Contributing Member

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  14. madhoca
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    madhoca Contributing Member Contributor

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    Be careful: those examples are comparative ADJECTIVES, not comparing using 'different' and then the noun. We say: 'I have a nicer/bigger/more expensive/colder etc (adjective) house THAN yours' (of course, here we need than) BUT 'My house is a different size/style/design (noun) to/from yours.'
     
  15. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    Fowler's Modern English Usage (pretty much the UK English pedant's Bible) says that "different from" is generally regarded as the correct form in British English, but that the suggestion that "to" or "than" shouldn't be used is "not supportable in the face of past and present evidence or logic". It does acknowledges, though, that "than" has risen in favour in the USA whilst falling in favour in the UK, and now "does not form part of the regular language in British". It suggests that variation between "from" and "to" can be used to avoid clumsy repetition: "The American theatre, which is suffering from a different malaise to ours, ...". That's probably not an issue in the USA, where I think they could simply drop the "from".

    The book is quite scathing about Mamma's suggestion that "different to" makes no sense, by the way.
     
  16. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    Not the same sort of comparison, though. They're all gradable, but different strictly speaking isn't.
     
  17. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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  18. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    I've told you before, we drive on the correct side of the road -- the opposite side to the oncoming traffic. Do you think we should drive on the same side as the oncoming traffic? :)

    Oh, and look up "U versus non-U English" and you'll find that non-U English is decidedly lower class than U English. :D
     
  19. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    ah, so it's only the toffs who like to over-letter their words! :rolleyes: up the proles!!!
     
  20. Jhunter
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    Jhunter Mmm, bacon. Contributor

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    Honestly, I have read and heard people use all three. And I would not stumble or think anything of it if I read or heard any of three either.

    But, for better or worse, I predominantly hear "than" in America.
     
  21. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    Which is interesting, because it's not what the Google nGram suggests. That shows "different from" as more than seven times more frequent than "different than" in US English. I wonder whether this is a difference between speech and writing or a regional thing where you are? That could be a useful thing for a writer to know, but I don't know how you would find out.
     
  22. Jhunter
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    Jhunter Mmm, bacon. Contributor

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    It could possibly be a west coast thing. Or maybe even just an age group thing.

    But, like I said, I have heard people say all three here. I guess it just depends on personal preference.
     
  23. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    I grew up in Southern California, where I am now, and I hear "different than" more often. But I lived in the midwest for 15 years, and heard "different from" quite a bit there (a mix of the two actually).
     
  24. Jhunter
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    Jhunter Mmm, bacon. Contributor

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    Now that I think about it, when I lived in Boise for seven years I heard "from" more as well. So maybe it is a Southern California thing?
     
  25. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'm in America (some time in the Midwest, some time just barely in the South, some time on the East coast, and some on the West coast) and I've almost always heard "different from". I've seen "different than" occasionally in dialect in writing or on the Internet, but I don't know if I've ever actually heard anyone say it.
     

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