This is an odd question, but there is $500.00 riding on the outcome. Some friends on an internet forum got into an argument over the correct usage of “then” versus “than.” A bet was proposed, the exact wording of it was: “I have a better bet for you. How about I find, let’s say 25 posts, where those two words are used incorrectly?”
Well, 25 posts were found where either “then” or “than” was misused. The loser refuses to pay off the bet now because he maintains that grammatically the wording of the bet means 25 examples of each word needed to be found used incorrectly, not collectively. Who is correct?
David G., Newark, NJ
Answer: The bettor should pay up (although it’s an extravagant sum for this type of wager). If you found 25 posts where someone has “used those two words incorrectly,” that means 25 instances in which either “then” or “than” is misused. In any sentence with an error, the two words are indeed applied incorrectly: One should have written “than,” and one should not have written “then.” The bet’s intention is obvious, and the bettor is obligated to pay up.
That being said, more precise wording would have helped, reflecting the challenge assumed by the bettors: “I have a better bet for you. How about I find, let’s say 25 posts, in which the writer has used either ‘than’ or ‘than’ incorrectly?”