Different To

different from

Grammar of the Day – Different To

I used to think that “different than” was bad. As in, “Reading a book is different than watching a movie.” But now it seems almost like an old friend. I think it’s been used in the place of “different from” for so long that the language has begun to accept it. And there’s almost a rationale for it. If you can have “bigger than” and “smaller than” and “older than” and “colder than,” then why can’t you have “different than?” After all, those other phrases imply a “difference,” don’t they?

Okay, I admit it: it still annoys me. I don’t think people would make the same mistake with “similar,” the antonym of “different.” I doubt if anyone would say, “Reading a book is similar than reading a magazine.” They would say that it’s “similar to.” Different – similar. From – to. Apart – together. All very logical. But with language, usage trumps logic, so it’s not surprising that the incorrect usage has become so widely used that it’s also widely accepted.

Does that explain “different to?” Has the original error become so mainstream that it has to be replaced by another one? An even worse one, if you ask me. As explained above, “different than” at least has a rationale, however specious. But “different to” is beyond the pale. It has taken the correct “from” and replaced it with its opposite. When I see it I just roll my mental eyes. I’m beginning to wonder if someone’s doing it on purpose. What happens when this one becomes widely accepted? “Different as?”

By the way, a little research shows that all three — from, than and to — are considered correct, but that “from” is least likely to get you in trouble.



About arjaybe

Jim has fought forest fires and controlled traffic in the air and on the sea. Now he writes stories.
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2 Responses to Different To

  1. Languages of any persuasion are an evolving “entity” that accept and adopt idiomatic phrases from the locales they are being spoken. English is one of the most prolific of them all. That being said, incorrect used of words makes me cringe and the one that curls my toes the most is the use of “of” in place of “have.” As an example…. “I should of” instead of “I should have.” Just because some words are phonetically similar, does not make them interchangeable. And in the case of “of” and “have” not even close.

    Language, especially English, can be very complex in all its intricacies. But we should be taught and must learn to read write and speak correctly. Proper grammar, punctuation and spelling are like music; done right it can be spiritually transcending.

    Idioms are OK. Wrong is just plain wrong.

    • arjaybe says:

      Well said, Ralph. I like your “should of” example. I can see how it happens: “should’ve” becomes “should of.” I have a similar example, and apologize in advance for any painful toe curling. I have a friend who says “used’ve.” I’m pretty sure it comes from “useta.” As in, “I useta go to the movies every week.” He’d say, “I used’ve go …” Similar to “shoulda” and “coulda” and so on. So I guess he’s trying to somewhat “correct” the sloppy term.-)

      You’re right about language evolving, and English being particularly good at that. That’s what makes it thrive so. The worst thing we could do is try to “regulate” it. We need to let it grow and change. Still, as you say, we should at least learn how to use it correctly in its existing form.

      Thanks for adding your interesting thoughts to the discussion.

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