In the following sentence:

"When I visited my old school after so many years, it looked completely different in the classrooms and the backyard /from what/to what/than/ it had been when I was a little boy.">

Are the three options acceptable in spoken English ?


Fowler's Modern English Usage endorses "different from," "different than," and "different to," pointing to examples of each cited in the OED dating back to 1590, 1644, and 1526 respectively.  I think, however, that "different to" is apt to sound strange to most native speakers of American English.  Preceding a clause, I'd use "different than."  In your example, the most natural sounding option (to me) is: "... the classrooms and backyard looked completely different than when I was a little boy," or perhaps "... the classrooms and backyard looked completely different than I remember them from my childhood."


I'm an American and I hear from and than equally often. To my ear, different to is a solely British usage, I don't think I've ever heard an American use it.

  • My question is "Is it acceptable in spoken English" and by that I mean "Is it considered good English when spoken ? I question this specifically about "than" because it isn't a preposition. – Centaurus Jul 10 '14 at 0:20
  • than isn't technically a preposition, but it often serves as one in informal communication. So in my opinion it isn't good English, but it is acceptable English. – Jason M Jul 10 '14 at 1:06

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