Rather

Express preference or avoidance

walk to work
 

 

Would prefer X to Y

WOULD PREFER TO

We express preference with would prefer X to YParallel (syntactically alike) wording is used.

SUBJ + VERB OPTION 1 PREP OPTION 2

I would prefer

walking (gerund)

to

driving  (gerund)

I would prefer

tea  (noun)

to

coffee (noun)

I would prefer

brown  (adjective)

to

black boots.  (adjective)

I would prefer

going now  (gerund clause)

to

going later (gerund clause) 

I would prefer

outside   (prep. phrase)

to

inside   (prep. phrase)

 

 

 

Rather than vs. To

WOULD PREFER…RATHER THAN

Switch to rather than before an infinitive clauses or that-clauses.   Avoid combinations such as "to to", "to that", or "than that".

SUBJ + VERB INFINITIVE / THAT RATHER THAN INFINITIVE / THAT

I would prefer

to walk

rather than

*to 

to drive.

 

I would prefer

that we walk

rather than

*to 

(that we) drive.

I would prefer

to be done

rather than

*to 

to be working

(Merriam-Webster 760)

parallel (adj.) – having the same word form; being syntactically alike, from the same category
categories:  NP –noun phrase; N – noun; VP – verb phrase; V – verb; Detdeterminer; PP – prepositional phrase; P – preposition; AdvP – adverb phrase; Adv – adverb; AdjP– adjective phrase; Adj – adjective

 

 

 

 

 

 

Would Rather

Asking and Stating Preference

 

 

 

Rather…or

WOULD you RATHER X OR Y

We use would you rather X or Y? to ask preference between two items.  Parallel (syntactically alike) wording is used before and after to.  (Or functions as a conjunction.)

AUX + SUBJ OPTION 1 OPTION 2

Would you   

rather drive

or walk(parallel verb phrases)

Would you

rather leave at 8:00

or wait until 9:00?

Would you

rather that I call you

or that you call me?

 

 

Rather… than

WOULD RATHER X THAN Y

Would rather than also coordinates two options phrased with parallel wording.  (When parallel phrasing is used, than is more like a negative conjuction (and not). When nonparallel phrasing is used, than is more like a preposition.)

SUBJ + AUX OPTION 1 OPTION 2

I would

rather drive

than walk. 

I would

rather leave at 8:00

than 8:00. 

I would

rather that I call you

than (that) you call me.

Related page: Would

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rather than

Expressing Preference vs. Avoidance

parking fine boot
 

 

Rather than — preference

#1 RATHER THAN — X NOT Y 

We use rather than to show comparative preference for the first of two paired (parallel) elements. Rather than coordinates syntactically alike items. The meaning is X (and) not Y (negative conjunction)  "in stead of".  The passive voice can be formed in these sentences.

CLAUSE COORDINATOR COORDINATED CLAUSE

Ed wanted less

rather than  in stead of / (and) not

more homework.  (parallel adjectives)

Ed worked carelessly

rather than

carefully on his projects.  (parallel adverbs)

Ed wanted success

rather than

failure. (parallel nouns)

Ed kept

rather than

told his secrets. (verbs)

Ed walked

rather than

ran. (verbs)

Ed enjoys walking for relaxation

rather than

running. (gerund – nonfinite clause)

Ed prefers to walk

rather than

run. (infinitive – nonfinite clause)  

(Huddleston "not in coordination" 811, rather, 1128)

 

 

 

Rather than — avoidance

#2 RATHER THAN —  CHOOSING X TO AVOID Y

Rather than also functions as an adverb with a comparative meaning "taking the contrary choice as the preferred one", perhaps,  as a judgment of what is right or logical.  This particular use of rather than is commonly followed by a bare infinitive (base verb form) .   The verb of the main clause is in present, past , or a modal verb from.  The passive voice cannot be formed..

CLAUSE – OPTION 1 ADVERB + PREP CLAUSE COMPLEMENT

Ed went to jail

rather than 

pay his parking fines.    

Ed will go to court

rather than

pay his parking fines. 

Ed would eat nails

rather than

pay his parking tickets. 

Ed preferred to go to jail

rather than

pay an unfair parking fine. 

Ed contests a ticket in court

rather than

just *pay / paying it. (ex. 3rd per.)

Ed has been making excuses

rather than

*do / doing his homework

Ed is making excuses

rather than

*do / doing his homework

 

*Note that 3rd-person, present tense sounds awkward with the bare infinitive verb form, so speakers often switch to a gerund.
contest (v.) – oppose something (an action, decision, or theory) as mistaken or wrong
(2) Merriam Webster Dictionary expresses the meaning as " indicate negation as a contrary choice or wish".  
(2) Huddleston expresses the meaning as "taking the contrary choice as the preferred one" (GGEL rather, 1128; expressions based on comparison, 1317)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rather than

Verb Complements

bike to work
 

 

Rather than  – Preference

#1 RATHER THAN — X NOT Y

Rather than (X not Y) coordinates two parallel verb forms. The verb after rather than has a parallel verb form

SUBJECT VERB COORDINATOR PARALLEL VERB FORM

Ed

walks (present)

rather than

drives to work. (present)

Ed

walked (past)

rather than 

drove to work.  (past)

Ed

will walk (modal)
prefers to walk  (VP)

rather than

drive to work. (bare form)

Ed

is walking
has been walking
enjoys walking

rather than

driving to work. (gerund)

Eddie
Ed

was walked
has walked  

rather than

driven to school. (passive + participle) 
driven to work. (passive + participle) 

 

 

 

Rather than – Avoidance

#2 RATHER THAN — CHOOSING  X TO AVOID Y

Rather than (X to avoid Y) than is a preposition with a clause as its complement.  The clause usually has a base verb form (bare infinitive), but may also have a gerund as will be discussed in the next section.

SUBJECT VERB ADVERB + PREP CLAUSE: BARE-FORM VERB

Ed

prefers to bike

rather than

waste time waiting for buses.
(driving is a faster way to get there)

Ed

bikes to work

rather than

%waste / wasting time waiting for buses.
(driving is a faster way to get there)

Ed

will take a pay cut

rather than

lay off any coworkers.
(saving money allows keeping employees)

He

will ride his bike

rather than

get caught in traffic.
(driving involves traffic, the train does not)

Ed 

went to jail

rather than

pay his parking fines.
(jail time takes the place of paying fines)

Ed 

sped down the freeway

rather than

miss his meeting
(drove fast to be on time)
 

%Some speakers use the bare infinitive form, other speakers use a gerund with 3rd person sing., present tense.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rather than

Factors determining the complement

(Advanced)   

 

 

Rather than verb…

ADJUNCT CLAUSE  WITH BARE INFINITIVE

When a rather than clause begins a sentence, the verb form can be the bare infinitival (base verb form) or the gerund verb form. ¹The bare infinitive is the preferred form.

The choice depends on 1) whether the sentence is worded in a parallel manner, and 2) whether parallel wording of the verb phrase in the sentence will allow it.  

BARE INFINITIVE PARALLEL VERB PHRASE

Rather than ¹take
Rather than taking the bus,
 

we drive our car to work. 

Rather than ¹take /
Rather than taking the bus,
 

Ed will/ could/ should/ walk to work.  (modal)

Rather than ¹take
Rather than taking the bus,
 

Ed walks to work.  (present habit)

Rather than ¹take
Rather than taking the bus,
 

Ed prefers to walk to work (present + infinitive clause)

Rather than %take
Rather than
taking the bus,

Ed enjoys walking to work (present + gerund clause)

Rather than %take
Rather than taking the bus,

 

Ed walked (% past tense)

¹The bare infinitive is the preferred form.
% usage varies
bare infinitive – the infinitive verb form without to

 

 

 

Rather than verb-ing…

ADJUNCT CLAUSE  WITH GERUND

We tend to use a gerund form in the initial clause when the coordinated elements are not parallel or not "balanced" (similar in length.)

The gerund form is used when (1) the second coordinated element is not syntactically alike (unparallel) or lengthy; (2) the verb is a past or progressive form,

GERUND UNP ARALLEL VERB PHRASE / PROGRESSIVE

Rather than %take,
Rather than
taking the bus,

we much prefer to drive whenever we can.   (lengthy, unparallel)

Rather than %take
Rather than taking the bus,

Ed will be walking to work.  (progressive)

Rather than %take,
Rather than taking the bus,

Ed is walking to work.  (progressive)

Rather than %take,
Rather than taking the bus,

 

Ed was walking to work.  (progressive)

 

 

 

Rather than verb… / Rather than verbing…

OPINION —  SUBJECTIVE

A bare infinitive form is used when one takes a stand in the judgment of truth, right, or what is logical. The person takes the contrary choice as the preferred one to avoid injustice.  The main clause verb is usually present, past or will or would.

MODAL / PAST / PRESENT BARE FORM  VERB

They will /would go / would have gone on strike rather than

accept what management offers them. (Accepting the offer would be humiliating.)

He went to jail rather than

pay his parking tickets.
(Paying his parking tickets would be an admission of guilt.)

He made excuses rather than

do his homework. 
(Doing his homework would require too much effort.)

We reason with him rather than

quarrel with him.
(Getting angry would be less effective.)

DESCRIIPTION —  OBJECTIVE

A gerund form is used with a more descriptive effect, in which the focus is more on the activity (aspect) and not opinion (modality). The verb in the main clause is usually progressive or present perfect.

PROGRESSIVE / PERFECT GERUND

They are going on strike rather than

accepting what management offered them.

He was going to jail rather than

paying his parking fines. 

He has been making excuses rather than

doing his homework.

We have reasoned with him rather than

quarreling with him.

 

modality (n.) – the speaker's attitude, opinion or evaluation of the activity;  also see Modal Review – modality
aspect (n.) – indicates information, such as duration, completion, or frequency, as it relates to the time of action
quarrel (v.) – fight, get angry with

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rather than / Instead of

Other complement types of  prepositions  (not just object nouns)

 

 

 

A  preposition can be complemented by a wide variety of structures.

INSTEAD OF COMPLEMENT TYPE RATHER THAN

He took the laptop instead of the iPad.

NP  (noun phrase) 

He took the laptop rather than the iPad.

I'll go instead of you.

noun 

I'll go rather than you.

We'll go now instead of in the morning.   

PP 

We'll go now rather than in the morning.   

I felt humiliated instead of proud of my self.

AdjP   

I felt humiliated rather than proud of my self.

He spoke timidly instead of competently.

AdvjP   

He spoke timidly rather than competently.

We want them to be bold instead of be cautious.

bare infinitival   

*We want them to be bold rather than be cautious.

*It's better to continue instead of  (to) wait.

infinitival   

It's better to continue rather than (to) wait.

We prefer moving on instead of waiting.

gerund-participle 

We prefer moving on rather than waiting.

He said that "it" was regretful instead of that he was sorry.

declarative clause 

He said that "it" was regretful rather than that he was sorry.

They told me I had tried hard instead of whether I had succeeded.

closed interrogative 

They told me I had tried hard rather than whether I had succeeded.

They told me where I had to go instead of when I had to go.

open interrogative    

They told me where I had to go rather thanwhen I had to go.

He asked that they be heard instead of that they be sent away

subjunctive clause 

He asked that they be heard rather than that they be sent away

"The prototypical PP has the form of a preposition as head and a NP as complement… Prepositions allow a wide range of complement type." (Huddleston 642) 

double preposition— instead (prep) + of (prep)  instead of, outside of, in front of, in place of

 

 

 

 

 

 

Common Mistakes

Errors and Solutions

 

 

 

Error and Solution

ERROR
FORMALITY

~We took a taxi rather than getting lost. 

informal - but not incorrect

BARE INFINITIVE

*We decided to take a map with us rather than to get lost.

 

AWKWARD TENSE USE

~Rather than get lost, we are taking a map with us. 

 

*Rather than get lost, we have taken a map with us. 

 

PLACEMENT OF "RATHER THAN"

*He rather went to jail than pay his fines.  

*He went rather to jail than to pay his fines.

 

"RATHER THAN" WITH 3RD PERSON-PRESENT TENSE

He asks for what he wants rather than get / getting upset.  
speaker usage varies
 

He asks for what he wants rather than whines.
3rd person verb expresses "preference"

"RATHER THAN" IN A COMPARATIVE SENTENCE

The group is more active in pursuing their own interests rather than the interests of the country. 

comparative phrase is not usedt with "rather than" (Garner 694)

PARALLEL WORDING

The security of the company and its assets rather than individual security has priority. 

wording is not parallel before and after "rather than"

 

SOLUTION
FORMALITY

We took a taxi rather than get lost on foot.

The bare infinitive is considered more formal use by some.  This is a "prescriptivist" argument. It could be a preference for "active" or "dynamic" verb forms bare inf.) rather than "descriptive verb forms gerund).  See bare infinitive vs. gerund

BARE INFINITIVE

We decided to take a map with us rather than [to] get lost.

The bare infinitive is used. It does not include to.

AWKWARD TENSE USE

Rather than get lost, we'll take a map with us.

  Use a modal or present tense.

Rather than get lost, we take a map with us.

Use present – habitual.

Rather than getting lost, we took a map with us.

Use past – habitual.

PLACEMENT OF "RATHER THAN"

He went to jail rather than pay his fines. 

Place rather than after the first verb phrase if coordinating two verb phrases.)

He would rather go to jail than pay his fines. 

Place rather before the verb if using would rather.

"RATHER THAN" WITH 3RD PERSON-PRESENT TENSE

He asks for what he wants rather than getting upset. (avoidance) 

While the bare infinitive may be considered more formal by some, other speakers use the -ing form here.   Note that the bare infinitives seems to sound better in coordination with modal, present and sometimes past tense verbs.

 

"RATHER THAN" IN A COMPARATIVE SENTENCE

The group is more active in pursuing their own interests than the interests of the country. 

In a comparative sentence of this type, use more…than or -er…than.

PARALLEL WORDING

The company security rather than individual security has priority.  or

The company rather than individual security has priority.

Rather than individual security, it is the security of the company that has priority. 

Sometimes a sentence can be reworded to have parallel phrasing or "equal weight".   Typically, we tend to put "wordier" information at the end of the sentence.  If rewording is not possible, use rather than in an adjunct clause, so that the wordier clause can be placed after it.

 

*not used / ~possibly used; awkward sounding

Pop-Q Rather than

 

 

 

 

 

 

Grammar Notes

Traditional Grammar and Linguistic Description

Advanced

 

 

TRADITIONAL DESCRIPTION LINGUISTIC DESCRIPTION

Conjunction or Preposition   "The question that puzzled Fowler was whether rather than always operated as a conjunction and thus had the same construction before as it had after, or whether it could also operate as a preposition and so connect dissimilar constructions…. We will simply point that rather than does function like a preposition. 

'Rather than argue for the overthrow of the entire system, the Colonists realized...that the basic values of British law were still valid. —  Daniel Sisson.

But when parallel constructions appear on each side of rather than, it is functioning like a conjunction: " ...implicating them, this time subtly rather than powerfully — J. I. M.Stewart"
(Merriam-Webster 797)

"Than is both a conjunction and a preposition…. In current usage than is more often a conjunction than a preposition... me after the preposition is more common in speech than in edited prose." (Merriam-Webster 892)

Rather "contains the comparative suffix -er but the original base rather (meaning "soon") has been lost, so that rather  is no longer analysable as an inflectional comparative.  It nevertheless retains clear semantic and syntactic affinities with ordinary comparative constructions." (Huddleston 1128) 

Rather thanI'd rather resign than accept such humiliation.  "Here it is an adverb with a comparative meaning: approximately "more readily, in preference to".  There are also uses where this meaning is largely or wholly lost — a change facilitated by the fact that the morphological base rath- no longer occurs without the -er suffix." (Huddleston 1317)

Than —  " The most usual position for the comparative is at the end of the clause containing the comparative phrase…" (1106);     "Bob is more generous than Liz" — Liz can be regarded as a "reduced clause" or as an "immediate complement NP" (Huddleston 1113)

coordinator — when expressing preference
preposition.subordinator — when expressing avoidance

Rather than (Swan 491.1-4)

This structure is normally used in "parallel" structures: for example with two adjectives, adverbs, nouns, infinitives or -ing forms.

Rather than (Garner 694)

conjunction – requires parallel wording: "If we can, we will solve this problem diplomatically rather than forcibly."

preposition – can connect unparallel constructions: "But as a preposition , rather than can connect nonparallel constructions: "Rather than staying home on a Saturday night, we went out to six different bars."

"When rather than separates two verbs, it's often less awkward to convert the verbs to gerunds…but sometimes rather than appears between simple verbs…"

 

 

 

 

Resources

 

 

 

 

 

 

Practice 1

Supermarket Grazing

Costco Grazing

 

 

 

 

 

Complete the sentence

  1. Select the response from the list that best completes the sentence. 
  2. Compare your response to the feedback by clicking the "check 1-10" button at the bottom, or click the "check" button as you go.

 

1.

2.
In fact, he would rather spend a Saturday afternoon "grazing" at the supermarket than at home.

grazing – lightly eating while walking; mostly said of cattle, sheep and goats

3.
Norman arrives at the supermarket, picks up a hand-basket and walks down the isle. He goes to the back of the store rather than to find a tasting table.

4.

5.
compliment (v.) – express praise or admiration

6.

7.

8.

9.

10.
cheese bites In fact, he'd rather miss a Saturday soccer game than
tasting cheese in the deli section.

give up (v.) – no have, go without

 

Weinberg, Gary. "The Definitive Guide for Food Grazing (for free) at Costco." 26 Mar 2010. Web.  http://goodgreasyeats.com/2010/03/26/special-report-eat-free-costco/

 

 

 

 

Practice 2

Ways to Survive Making a Holiday Meal

hosting a holiday meal
 

 

Decide whether the wording of the sentence is "correct or incorrect" (formal / formal; preferred/ not preferred).

  1. Select the response from the list that best completes the sentence. 
  2. Compare your response to the feedback by clicking the "check 11-20" button at the bottom, or click the "check" button as you go.

 

11.
Rather than trying to do everything yourself, ask for help.

   

12.
Wouldn't you prefer to enjoy your guests rather than working in the kitchen. 

   

13.
Rather than cooking alone, I prefer to be around others.

   

14.
I'd rather going to a restaurant than work all day in the kitchen.


   

15.
Rather than trying to cook and entertain your guests, get your guests involved in the food preparation.

   

16.
Its better to include people rather than excluding them from the kitchen.

   

17.
Some people would rather hide in the garage  than help out in the kitchen. 

   

18.
When guests help a little, the hosts enjoy the experience rather than suffering.

   

19.
You will have fond memories rather than tired feet.

   

20.
Rather than host the next holiday meal at your house, suggest that someone else do it.