One letter does make a difference…
Différent is the adjective meaning “different” as in “another” or different as in “unusual, not common”.
- un pantalon différent –> a different pair of trousers, another pair;
- un robe différente –> a different dress, another dress;
- des fleures de couleurs différentes –> flowers of different colors;
- des arbres différents –> different (kinds of) trees;
NOTE: Be careful not to overuse of the adjective “different” in English. We will address this point in the future.
Différant is the present participle of the verb différer de, whose -ing form is differing:
Votre opinion différant de la mienne…. –> Your opinion differing from mine…
….une culture différant de la nôtre… –> a culture differing from ours…
Note that “une culture différant” sounds like a mistake if you believe you have heard …une culture différent… as opposed to “une culture différente”. Note that the present participle “différant” is often followed by “de” and is not used as often as the adjective “différent, différente“.
The verb “différer” also means to defer, to postpone.
En différant les horaires de train, le problème sera résolu. The problem will be solved by deferring the train schedule.
From the Oxford Dictionaries online:
Do not confuse differ with defer. Differ means ‘be different’ ( our tastes differ, especially in cars), whereas defer means ‘put something off until later’ ( I deferred the decision until May).
Un différend is a disagreement, something being contested: Un différend nous oppose depuis des années.
According to the Littré online
, the word originally was spelled with a “t”, just like the adjective. The “d” replaced the “t” to mark a difference between the adjective “différent” and the noun now spelled “différend”.
Glad to hear of the Académie française’s solicitude!