To me it seems natural to say something like:

"I am different from you." or "You can't marry him, he belongs to a different species than you do."

But recently it seems to be more and more common to read or hear on TV phrases like:

"...looked very different to..."

And that really annoys me and makes me want to zap the user with a lightening bolt or something.

So is it correct grammar or bad and annoying grammar to use the phrase "different to" instead of "different from or "different than"?


5 Answers 5


The Grammarist makes an interesting analysis on pros and cos of using “to” and “than” instead of “from” after the adjective different. Note,however, that these prepositions have been used for centuries.

  • Some careful English speakers consider different to and different than problematic. The argument is that things differ from each other, and they don’t differ to or differ than each other, so different from is the only logical construction. But there are problems with the arguments against different to and different than, and the old prejudice against these phrases should be laid to rest.

  • First, one point in favor of different to and different than is that these constructions are common and have been common for centuries. They have appeared in works of great writers and can be found in books from editorially fastidious publishers, and no English speaker has trouble understanding them.

  • Different than, which is especially common in the U.S. , appears about twice for every three instances of different from in 21st-century newswriting from the U.S. and is common (though less so) in American books from this century.

  • Different to, meanwhile, is nearly as common as different from in recent U.K. newswriting and is easily found in U.K. writing of all kinds not just from this century but from as long ago as the 18th century.

  • Plus, the argument against different than in particular is not well founded. Granted, than typically follows comparative adjectives (e.g., brighter than, less easy than), of which different is not one. This is not a rule, though, and than would not be the first word in English to have multiple uses. But the than in different than doesn’t even need to have its own definition. The word primarily means in comparison to or in contrast with, and these senses are perfectly in keeping with the word’s use in different than.

  • We could make similar arguments about different to . To, a versatile preposition, has numerous definitions (the Oxford dictionary lists a few dozen), several of which could be used to justify its use in making comparisons and drawing contrasts. Different than also aids concision. Consider the sentence, “He is different than he was yesterday.” People who are very strict about these things might find fault with that sentence, yet it is more concise than the alternative, “He is different from how he was yesterday.” Also consider the sentence, “The movie had a different meaning to me than to him.” It would be possible to rephrase this sentence to use from instead of than, but all the alternatives would be wordy.

  • No matter what we say, however, keep in mind that there are people who consider different than and different to unequivocally wrong, so it’s a good idea to approach these phrases with caution in writing for work or school.

  • I (British) would never say 'different to' or 'different than', but I can accept that they're not 'unequivocally wrong'. Aug 22, 2018 at 16:33
  • I think not providing a longer phrase is problematical. That's why I gave examples. different meaning to is not being discussed here.
    – Lambie
    Aug 22, 2018 at 18:02

Dictionaries say, 'different to' is more typical for British English and that might be the reason why you find it not too natural.


P.S. My humble hypothesis on the origin of 'different to': it could appear long ago as an abbreviation for 'different (compared) to'. Expressions with 'compared' have prepositional versions 'compared with' (for comparison of similar things) and 'compared to' (for comparison of less similar things, with emphasis on difference). So the co-existence of 'different from' and 'different to' ('different than' in AE) probably has similar reasons.

  • Different than is not standard in American English: Different from is, just as it is in most places, except for (like you said) Britain, where different to is common and unobjectionable.
    – user305707
    Aug 23, 2018 at 3:56

This is from the Chicago Manual of Style, 17th edition:

"The phrasing different from is generally considered preferable to different than {this company is different from that one}, but sometimes the adverbial phrase differently than is all but required {she described the scene differently than he did}. In British English, different to is not uncommon—but it is distinctively British English, whereas different from is standard everywhere." (The bolded words are my emphasis.)

And here is something from GMEU, known also as Garner's Modern English Usage:

"Different than is considered inferior to different from. The problem is that than should follow a comparative adjective (larger than, sooner than, etc.), and different is not comparative—though, to be sure, it is a word of contrast. Than implies a comparison, i.e., a matter of degree; but differences are ordinarily qualitative, not quantitative, and the adjective different is not strictly comparative. Hence writers should generally prefer different from. . . Still, it is indisputable that different than is sometimes idiomatic, and even useful, since different from often cannot be substituted for it—e.g.: 'This designer's fashions are typically quite different for men than for women.'

Also, different than may sometimes usefully begin clauses if attempting to use different from would be so awkward as to require another construction—e.g.:

'Life for Swann, who held out to sign a two-year, $7 million contract in August, is a lot different than it was for him in Lynn.' Steve Conroy, 'Ugly Duckling Becomes Swann,' Boston Herald, 13 Sept. 1996, at 104.

When from nicely fills the slot of than, however, that is the idiom to be preferred—e.g.:

' The spell checker it invokes is completely different than [read different from] that which the others share.' Paul Bonner, 'On Windows,' Computer Shopper, Oct. 1996, at 564."

Garner provided more examples; I just didn't list them all. He says the same as Chicago on different to being common in BrE. He adds that while than following differently is a common usage since the 17th century, if no independent clause immediately follows differently, from works well and is preferable. Here is the example he gives:

"Why should artists be treated any differently than [read differently from] scientists?" Roche Schulfer, "Defending NEA," Chicago Trib., 21 Sept. 1996, at 23.


It is in British English. Using "to" after "different" instead of "from" or "than" is a Britishism. It is unique to British English. That doesn't mean that speakers of British English never say "different from" or "different than" but that "different to" is another choice. That said, most of the time an American speaker says "different than," a British speaker would say "different to," instead.


  • A is different from B
  • A is different than B
  • A is different to B [meaning: comparison, not standard]

To is an operator (some call it a function word) and generally is used to link two parts of a sentence (some people call it a to-infinitive). "He likes to eat scones". There are many other functions as well.

It is also a preposition. "Go to the back of the room".

Its main uses are given in Merriam Webster definition of to

However, none of the uses given there involve comparisons as in "A is different from B" or "A is different than B". Therefore, I would say it is not standard.

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