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The word "different" implies opposition, separation, "otherness," etc. Therefore, juxtaposing it with the word "to" makes no sense. And, in itself, standing alone, it is not a comparative word, so using it with "than" is plainly wrong (except that, perhaps, one could imagine saying "more different than," or "less different than," in some context or another). A thing differs from another thing. One thing is different from another. Nothing else makes sense.

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    I do not think one can answer the question about why the British use it. However, I am an AmE speaker and I use it.
    – Lambie
    Oct 16, 2021 at 19:11
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    We can also hear "different than".
    – GEdgar
    Oct 16, 2021 at 19:32
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    Google Ngrams does not support your assertion "the British use the phrase, "different to," rather than "different from?"" What is the source of your information?
    – Greybeard
    Oct 16, 2021 at 20:28
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    I'm British and I prefer "different from". Oct 17, 2021 at 7:27
  • "From" is the usual form, but it also takes "to".
    – BillJ
    Oct 17, 2021 at 11:02

1 Answer 1

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The Grammarist explains that “different to” is standard BrE and its usage dates back to the 18th century.

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.

As for its literal usage and meaning, “to” is a very versatile preposition as noted below:

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.

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    Actually, "different from" is found more often than "different to" in any dialect. link
    – BillJ
    Oct 17, 2021 at 11:06
  • The Grammarist's reply, citing 21st-century newswriting as support for the use of "different than," is unconvincing. 21st-century writing, in general, is reflective of the poor state of English grammar (at least in the USA). Also, I do not find "everybody's doing it" as a valid reason to continue any sort of error. That is a common logical fallacy.
    – Patricia
    Oct 19, 2021 at 20:32

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