"different to", "different than"

by Mark Israel
 
     [This is a fast-access FAQ excerpt.]

"Different from" is the construction that no one will object to.
"Different to" is fairly common informally in the U.K., but rare in
the U.S.  "Different than" is sometimes used to avoid the cumbersome
"different from that which", etc. (e.g., "a very different Pamela
than I used to leave all company and pleasure for" -- Samuel
Richardson).  Some U.S. speakers use "different than" exclusively.
Some people have insisted on "different from" on the grounds that
"from" is required after "to differ".  But Fowler points out that
there are many other adjectives that do not conform to the
construction of their parent verbs (e.g., "accords with", but
"according to"; "derogates from", but "derogatory to").

   The Collins Cobuild Bank of English shows choice of preposition
after "different" to be distributed as follows:

                "from"  "to"    "than"
                -----   ----    ------
U.K. writing    87.6    10.8     1.5
U.K. speech     68.8    27.3     3.9
U.S. writing    92.7     0.3     7.0
U.S. speech     69.3     0.6    30.1