John in Albany, N.Y., had a question about something he heard in a TV commercial: “Dentures are different to real teeth.”
The preposition struck him as odd.
“I don't recall ever hearing this (different to) before,” John wrote. “Then last week I was reading a book (written in 2006 by an English author), in which he uses the same phrase. Is this correct? I always thought ‘different from’ was correct ... not ‘different to.’ I know things have changed since my schooling in the ’40s and ’50s, and some things we thought were wrong are now accepted (perhaps due to repeated incorrect usage), so maybe I missed something.”
In fact, John did miss something. Or, more precisely, his teachers back in the ’40s and ’50s missed something. It’s the same thing my teachers missed in the ’70s and ’80s and, most likely, teachers of today miss, too.
The thing we all missed wasn’t a lesson on what word should follow “different.” It was a lesson on how to know which preposition goes with any particular word.