“Different to,” upgraded

A few years ago, I called “different to” (as opposed to the American “different from” or “different than”) a “doobious NOOB”–meaning that there was no sign of it becoming popular in the U.S. But since reader Hal Hall recently spotted this sentence in the online publication Quartz

One company, Canada’s D-Wave, which uses a different process to IBM’s, claims to have already built a commercially viable computer with 1,000 qubits.

–I’m upgrading it to “On the Radar.”


17 thoughts on ““Different to,” upgraded

  1. In Brit English, different from is the correct form.
    To and than are used but incorrect, although Blamires (Bloomsbury 1994) cites Bronte’s us of “to” and Burchfield (OUP 1985) mentions “than” having been used by Addison, Steele, Carlyle and Thackeray. Both sources maintain “from” is more usually correct.

  2. Anecdotally, I feel like I’ve been seeing “different to” increasingly in US writing of late, but I can’t point to a specific example at the moment. “Quartz” appears to be a US publication, more or less (owned by Atlantic Monthly), but their “About Us” statement emphasizes their “global worldview.” I couldn’t find a byline for this article, but it’s possible that it was penned by a Brit.

    1. The byline ‘Mike Murphy’ is at the top of that series of articles. His LinkedIn entry says he went to high school in London and worked there too before taking his current job in the US.
      As a British speaker, my habit is to use ‘different from’ and ‘different to’ about equally but never ‘different than’.

  3. The 1965 revision I have of Eric Partridges Usage and Abusage gives both different from and different to as being correct. Certainly, different to is what I mostly use

  4. Bryan A. Garner’s Modern American Usage (3d Ed.) provides a nuanced view. Note his “should generally prefer,” which for him is unusually strong hedging: “‘Different than’ is often considered inferior to ‘different from’… [argument citing use of ‘than’ with comparative adjectives]….Thus, writers should generally prefer ‘different from’…Still, it is indisputable that ‘different from’ is sometimes idiomatic, and even useful.”

    He treats “different to” entirely separately as “common and unobjectionable BrE…”

    The successor to Modern American Usage is due out in April under the much more ambitious title and scope, Garner’s Modern English Usage. I’ll be interested to see how this entry may have changed.

  5. If you require any proof that “different from” is correct and “different to” or “different than” is wrong, just substitute “differs” for “is different”. You would always say something “differs from” and would never say something “differs to” or “differs than”. With apologies for all the exclamation marks…

  6. Every time I encounter this one, it just rubs my ears the wrong way.

    Different means not alike, as in far apart, as in “different from”.
    Similar means alike, as in not far apart, as in “similar to”.

    You wouldn’t say similar from, would you?
    Of course not, that’s dumb.
    So why would you say different to?

  7. As I may have mentioned elsewhere, I’ve been using “different from” my whole life since that’s what I was taught in school, but I hear “different than” quite frequently here in the U.S. Since you made me aware of “different to,” and only since then, I now hear that construction rather frequently in British TV programs exported to the United States.

    BTW, whatever program is checking my spelling here, it flagged my use of “programmes” in the previous sentence, referring to “British TV programmes,” so I changed it to the U.S. spelling.

  8. Hmm. I dislike hearing “different to” as well. But just musing here…could “different to” be some kind of contraction of “different as compared to…”?

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