1. Fowler wrote in 1926 that insistence ‘that different can only be followed by from and not by to is a superstition’. It is in fact a 20c superstition that refuses to go away, despite copious evidence for the use of to and than dating back to well before 1700. First of all we should recognize that for much of the time different, when used predicatively (after a verb) is used without any complement at all:

• But tonight would have been different —A. Wells, 1993.

We may then put than aside for a moment and concentrate on different from and different to. The argument in favour of from is based on the relation of different to differ (which is followed by from in this meaning); but this is an artificial construction based on the principles of Latin and not English grammar, and is contradicted by the varying practice of accord (with) and according (to). English works by analogy, and here the influence comes from words that have the same function, such as comparable, equivalent, and similar.
2. There are indeed occasions when from is inelegant and to is more natural, especially when different is separated from its complement (e.g. by an adverbial phrase), as will be seen from following examples which illustrate both uses: (from)

• Casual shacking up was quite different from holy matrimony —M. Underwood, 1980

• The Anglo-American approach to copyright was thought to be different from the approach taken by France and other European countries —New Yorker, 1987

• He's no different from my brother, in the end —Nadine Gordimer, 1988

• What makes chenille different from other carpets is that it's the product of two distinct processes —E. Blair, 1990

• (to) He looked no different at first to other boys Margaret had known —M. Leland, 1986

• I found that a meadow seen against the light was an entirely different tone of green to the same meadow facing the light —Scots Magazine, 1986

• They don't seem to be any different to us —Chicago Tribune, 1989

• Sound waves are very different to water waves but the length of a sound wave changes with its frequency in the same way —J. Downer, 1989.

3. Different than is a more complex issue. It is better established in AmE than in BrE, especially when different is followed by a clause:

• It used to be they'd play at different times than on the U.S. stations, but not any more —Globe & Mail (Toronto), 1977

• This discrepancy is intriguing because most scallops have a very different mode of life than other species —Bulletin of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences, 1987

It was in so many ways entirely different than he could ever have imagined-Internet website, AmE 2004 [OEC].

BrE looks more strongly askance at this construction than it does on different to, and the objection can be better justified on grounds of style than the objection to to can be justified on grounds of grammar. It is natural to want to avoid an awkward relative construction such as we find in Joyce Cary's much discussed sentence I was a very different man in 1935 from what I was in 1916; for some the answer is I was a very different man in 1935 than I was in 1916, but a little lateral thinking might steer us right round the problem by suggesting an alternative: I was not the same man in 1935 as I had been in 1916. One should not presume to rewrite Joyce Cary, but this kind of solution might do better for those who simply want to stay clear of linguistic mantraps.
4. The case for to and than is more compelling, as occasional alternatives to from, when different is used in an adverbial phrase such as in a different sense, and when they follow the adverb differently, where from can become uncomfortably cumbersome:

• Sebastian was a drunkard in quite a different sense to myself —Evelyn Waugh, 1945

• A false sense of security which makes drivers behave quite differently on motorways than on ordinary roads —Daily Telegraph, 1971

• The lepidopteran proboscis is very differently constructed from that of the Diptera —Proctor & Yeo, 1973

Perhaps our minds work differently to the physical world around us-G. Hartnell, 2004.

5. Note that different is commonly found in everyday use as a convenient synonym for more austere words such as distinct, separate, various, etc.:

• Children's perceptions of their sexual roles are built up from many different sources —N. Tucker, 1981

• After four or five different activities have been described, you read the list of activities —R. McCall, 1992

• For sociology graduates there are career opportunities in many different areas —Edinburgh undergraduate prospectus, 1993.

If the exact meanings of the other words given above are needed, use them; otherwise this use of different is a useful one.

Modern English usage. 2014.


Look at other dictionaries:

  • différent — différent, ente [ diferɑ̃, ɑ̃t ] adj. • v. 1394; lat. differens 1 ♦ Qui diffère; qui présente une différence par rapport à une autre personne, une autre chose. ⇒ autre, dissemblable, distinct. Complètement, essentiellement différent; différent à… …   Encyclopédie Universelle

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  • différent — différent, ente (di fé ran, ran t ) adj. 1°   Qui diffère, qui est autre. Ils sont différents d humeur et de langage. Vous êtes très différent de votre frère. •   Mais elle voit d un oeil bien différent du vôtre Son sang dans une armée et son… …   Dictionnaire de la Langue Française d'Émile Littré

  • Different — Dif fer*ent, a. [L. differens, entis, p. pr. of differre: cf. F. diff[ e]rent.] 1. Distinct; separate; not the same; other. Five different churches. Addison. [1913 Webster] 2. Of various or contrary nature, form, or quality; partially or totally… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Different — may refer to: Different (Thomas Anders album), 1989 Different (Kate Ryan album), 2002 Different , a 2005 alternative rock song by Acceptance from Phantoms Different , a song by Pendulum from In Silico Different , a song by Dreamscape from 5th… …   Wikipedia

  • different — different, diverse, divergent, disparate, various are comparable when they are used to qualify plural nouns and mean not identical or alike in kind or character. Different often implies little more than distinctness or separateness {four… …   New Dictionary of Synonyms

  • different — ► ADJECTIVE 1) not the same as another or each other. 2) distinct; separate. 3) informal novel and unusual. DERIVATIVES differently adverb differentness noun. USAGE There is little difference in sense between di …   English terms dictionary

  • different — [dif′ər ənt, dif′rənt] adj. [ME < OFr < L differens: see DIFFERENCE] 1. not alike; dissimilar: with from, or, esp. informally, than, and, in Brit. usage, to 2. not the same; distinct; separate; other 3. various 4. unlike most others;… …   English World dictionary

  • différent — ou DIFFÉREND. s. m. Débat, contestation, querelle. Ils ont eu différent ensemble. Il faut leur laisser vider leurs différens. Faire naître un différent. Apaiser, assoupir undifférent. [b]f♛/b] Il signifie aussi La chose contestée. Il faut… …   Dictionnaire de l'Académie Française 1798

  • Different — Saltar a navegación, búsqueda Different puede referirse a: Contenido 1 Música 1.1 Álbumes 1.2 Canciones …   Wikipedia Español

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