In spite of the hard time I've given Howard (or, as I've started referring to him, Naughty Howard) about topic-changing, I must admit that it's a topic I've meant to cover. So, most is forgiven, Howard--but I'm still going to think of you as Naughty Howard, due to my naturally stubborn and sadistic nature (which can't be too serious, considering the Libra factor).
So, readers, fill in the blank in the following sentence:
British English is different ____ American English in many ways.If you answered from, then congratulations! You are a citizen of the world, who uses the only variant on this phrase that is said around the Anglophonic world and the only variant that is universally considered to be "correct" by the people who make declarations about such things.
If you said than, then you're most likely North American. Note that objections to this form have softened through the years. For instance:
Different than has been much criticized by commentators but is nonetheless Standard [in American English--L.] at most levels except for some Edited English. Consider She looks different than [she did] yesterday. He’s different than me (some additional purist discomfort may arise here). You look different than he [him]. The problem lies in the assumption that than should be only a subordinating conjunction (requiring the pronouns that follow to be the nominative case subjects of their clauses), and not a preposition (requiring the pronouns that follow to be the objective case objects of the preposition). But Standard English does use than as both preposition and conjunction: She looks different than me is Standard and so is She looks different than I [do]. And with comparative forms of adjectives, than occurs with great frequency: She looks taller [older, better, thinner, etc.] than me [than I do]. Still, best advice for Formal and Oratorical levels: stick with different from. --Kenneth G. Wilson, The Columbia Guide to Standard American English, 1993.If you said to, then you're probably British, although you might be from a Commonwealth country. Or you could be me. For some reason, different to entered my grammar quite soon after I moved here. I thought I was being really "native" when I used it in a draft of a document for students. But my fellow American (and BrE pundit), the late, great Larry Trask, took me to task for it, saying that it was non-standard BrE. I can't find anyone else who feels so strongly about this as Larry did, but then again, there are fewer British style guides on the web---and I'm not in my office with Fowler's and Oxford Style at the moment. My Concise Oxford only says that different to is "less common [than different from] in formal use". Someone in a forum at this site reports:
But someone else on the forum (not citing which edition of Fowler's--and that matters a lot!), claims that Fowler's is completely intolerant of different than, claiming that if one needs to have a than there, then different must be acting as an adverb, and therefore should be differently, as in This soup tastes differently than it did last night. Now, since taste is a sense verb that acts as a linking verb, it can occur with an adjective (you wouldn't say This soup tastes spicily, would you?), so I'm not sure that commentator had his/her facts right. If I were a responsible blogger, I'd wait until Monday to post this, so I could look it up myself. But instead, I'll be lazy and hope that one of you will do it! The 3rd edition, please!
Fowler's Modern English Usage, Second Edition
different. 1. That d. can only be followed by from and not by to is a SUPERSTITION.