Tag Archives: different from

To or Fro(m): Do you know whether you’re coming or going?

I’m sorry, I just can’t let this go.

“How is this different from that? “How is this different to that?”

Which is the correct way to say it?

I can’t remember ever hearing, until recently, anyone say “different to.” It just sounds wrong and I think it is wrong. I’ve been hearing and seeing it more and more lately. Is that what is being taught in schools these days, or is it a vernacular mutation that is going mainstream?

Surprisingly, a web search of “different to” quickly turned up some useful information on the matter.

Here is what Oxford Dictionaries site has to say about it:

 Different from, than, or to?

Is there any difference between the expressions different from, different than, and different to? Is one of the three ‘more correct’ than the others?

In practice, different from is by far the most common of the three, in both British and American English:

We want to demonstrate that this government is different from previous governments. (British English)

This part is totally different from anything else that he’s done. (American English)

Different than is mainly used in American English:

Teenagers certainly want to look different than their parents.

Different to is much more common in British English than American English:

In this respect the Royal Academy is no different to any other major museum.

Some people criticize different than as incorrect but there’s no real justification for this view. There’s little difference in sense between the three expressions, and all of them are used by respected writers.

But Alt-Usage provides some further information and some statistics on actual usage:

“Different from” is the construction that no one will object to.

“Different to” is fairly common informally in the U.K., but rare in the U.S.

“Different than” is sometimes used to avoid the cumbersome “different from that which”, etc. (e.g., “a very different Pamela than I used to leave all company and pleasure for” – Samuel Richardson).

 Some U.S. speakers use “different than” exclusively. Some people have insisted on “different from” on the grounds that “from” is required after “to differ”. But Fowler points out that there are many other adjectives that do not conform to the construction of their parent verbs (e.g., “accords with”, but “according to”; “derogates from”, but “derogatory to”).

The Collins Cobuild Bank of English shows choice of preposition after “different” to be distributed as follows:

                    “from” “to”   “than”
U.K. writing   87.6   10.8       1.5
U.K. speech     68.8   27.3       3.9
U.S. writing  92.7       0.3     7.0
U.S. speech     69.3     0.6     30.1

So it seems it is the Brits who are to blame.

C’mon you blokes, learn to speak proper English!