I’m different than you

Doesn’t sound right, does it? But in American English, ‘different than’ is a perfectly acceptable alternative to ‘different from’. For example, ‘Children often feel different than their parents about this.’

In British English, we tend to use ‘different from’ in most circumstances, although ‘different to’ can also be used. For example, ‘This song is different from the previous song.’ Using ‘different to’ in the same sentence would work, but most editors would change the ‘to’ to ‘from’.

But beware, there are some situations in which ‘different…than’ might be perfectly correct even in British English. The ‘bible’ on English usage, Fowler’s Modern English Usage, says: ‘…different than is often preferred by good writers to the cumbersome different from that which etc., …’ and Fowler then quotes several examples, including: ‘He is using the word in quite a different sense than he did yesterday.’

Apart from this situation, if you’re not sure whether you’ll remember what’s best or correct, always use ‘different from’ to be on the safe side.


About Stephen Wellings

I am a publishing and training professional with over 30 years' editorial and senior management experience in companies such as McGraw-Hill, Pan Books, International Thomson, The Open College, Butterworth-Heinemann and Pergamon Open Learning. During my career I have commissioned and published hundreds of books and learning materials in science, technology, social science, business and management. I have designed, developed and published major distance learning programmes, including one of the world’s largest for ACCA, the professional accounting body. I am accomplished at delivering sizeable publishing and training projects on time, within budget and to exacting quality standards. In my spare time I promote live modern jazz in the Thames Valley, under the Jazz in Reading brand. I am also Co-chair of Reading Borough Council's Learning Disabilities Partnership Board.
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