Friday, March 2, 2012

Different . . .

Is Microsoft different from Apple, or different than Apple? Well, if we want to be pedantically and prescriptively correct (i.e., what the dictionaries and usage guides tend to tell us*), then we should only ever use the collocation "different from." In centuries of practice, however, this is one of those usages that people routinely disregard outside of the privileged circle of people who know the "rules," the way it "ought" to be.

I do say different from myself, simply because I know the logic behind it and I've been educated that way. But if you say different than, I won't protest.

What made me think of this recently, however, is a collocation that I had never heard: different with. Now, you could have those two words together, as in this sentence: Life is different with a spouse. But in that example with begins a prepositional phrase and does not form a comparative phrase with the word different.

What I heard recently was the latter. I don't remember the exact sentence, but it would have sounded like the first sentence of this post with the word with: Microsoft is different with Apple.

And the speaker said it twice, making me wonder if it was his normal collocation. Has anyone else ever heard different with? Or maybe I just heard wrong.

*Some say that in practice from usually introduces a phrase and than usually introduces a clause. I'm not sure about that.

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