Different From or Different To?

There’s a Polident commercial on TV where some dentist keeps talking about how “dentures are different to regular teeth” that’s been driving me crazy lately. What is it about this sentence that’s rubbing me the wrong way?  I think it’s because I want him to say “dentures are different from regular teeth.”


So, like every good researcher, I did a quick Google search to see what the experts have to say about this. According to the Oxford Dictionary, they see little to no difference between using from, to, or than in this context, but I beg to differ. So it got me thinking about why I felt this way. Was there some kind of cognitive dissonance I was trying to overcome in justifying saying things are different to one another? Well, yes!

To and From
When we go to something, we are approaching towards it, getting closer to it. When we go from something, we are leaving it behind, getting further away. Things that are different from each other go into separate piles in our minds’ eye, and similar things go into the same pile.

Different and Similar
Think about it. If things can be different to each other, then shouldn’t it be possible to say the opposite about similar things? For example: this is similar from that. I mean, if to and from have essentially the same meaning, we can use them interchangeably, right? Wrong! I don’t know about you, but I’ve never heard anyone say something was similar from something else.

So until someone can convince me otherwise, things are going to be similar to and different from each other from here on out. What do you think?



2 thoughts on “Different From or Different To?

  1. Hi Dan!
    First, I must say I was surprised seeing you write on right English structure ☺ but then, it is good to see you have time for these things even to write on them – Probably shows how much it troubled you!

    Anyway, your reasoning seems logical & mine is similar from *sorry similar to yours! I’m not sure I’ll say otherwise in these contexts. Even though, first reaction quickly points out that the contexts of ‘similar to & different from’ is different from ‘going away from & to-wards’ something (if you get my point).

    And complements of the season to you!

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