14 Comments Add yours

  1. nliakos says:

    Makes sense to me

  2. BVincent says:

    Some awareness of corpora and choosing from authentic examples rather than (!) what appear to be invented ones would help here.

    1. Point taken. 🙂 Besides using a grammar textbook based on corpora (i.e. Longman Grammar of Spoken and Written English), I’ve turned to resources like the Corpus of Contemporary American English . I found more examples with “rather than” followed by gerunds and base verbs. In Student Stumper 30, I try to offer some guidelines to help students decide which pattern to follow.
      Could you suggest another resource that would help shed light on the use of rather than? Thank you for contributing to the discussion!

      1. Benet says:

        Those seem like pretty good resources. For British English, I use BNCweb. I can’t think of any others off hand

      2. Google’s Ngram viewer isn’t terribly enlightening in this case, but it does allow us to compare frequency of use in UK and US.
        Thanks again!

  3. Geof says:

    It seems clear that “rather than” feels like a preposition to native English speakers, because our first impulse is always to follow it with a gerund or infinitive when it is verbs that are being contrasted. In fact, with verbs in the past tense, strict parallelism sounds decidedly odd: “He bought the turkey rather than saw it killed and butchered.” Seeing or see for saw sounds more natural, though strictly speaking it is wrong.

    1. Thank you for contributing to the discussion. Have you looked at Student Stumper 30? It’s related.
      I agree that some phases we say certainly sound natural, but are likely incorrect!

  4. sudheer says:

    “She said she‘d rather stay home than go out” , “She said she‘d rather stay home than going out” which one is correct

    1. Hello. We need parallel structure, so to match the base verb “stay” we will use the base verb “go.”
      >> She’d rather stay home than go out.


  5. corvus.cht says:

    Dear Jennifer,

    When I look at the word “rather” instead as it’s synonym “comparatively” my mind explodes… I then see “than” as an unnecessary tag-along…
    For example…

    I’m feeling rather perplexed.
    I’m feeling comparatively perplexed.
    I would rather do this than that.
    I would comparatively do this than that.

    Walk this way rather than that way.
    Walk this way comparative(ly?) than(to?) that way.

    Step rather than trip
    Step rather trip

    Don’t trip rather than step.
    Don’t trip rather step.

    Can “than” be removed in that scenario and still be proper?
    Or does it demand a second sentence?

    Don’t trip. Rather, step.
    Step rather trip

    It seems to change depending on the intent of the sentence’s introduction.

    I write concise poetry and am curious of this perplexity as such. I have a number of lines flowing rather well, while still tapping sense, when removing “than.” …quite the ironic paradoxical juxtaposition I’ve stumbled into…

    1. Hi Christopher. The tricky nature of rather begins with the fact that it has more than one use. In this particular post, I wanted to focus on rather than to pose alternatives. With this meaning, we must keep the two-word structure: Let’s take the later flight rather than the earlier one. / I chose to order fish rather than steak. Here rather than is like instead of or even and not/but not. Your one example worked well: Walk this way rather than that way. = Walk this way and not that way./ Walk this way instead of that way.

      I think Step rather than trip works grammatically, but logically it’s odd. Is tripping really a choice? Maybe I’d say: Step. Don’t trip./ Step and please don’t trip.

      When we use rather before adjectives to alter the degree, I see it more like quite: I’m feeling rather (quite) perplexed.
      When we use it before verbs to show preference, I see it more like would prefer: I would rather do this than that./I would prefer to do this than that.

      You can drop “than” when you correct or clarify something stated. Then we normally use or rather/ but rather. Here are links to dictionary entries showing these two other uses.
      http://www.ldoceonline.com/dictionary/rather (See entries 4, 5.)
      http://www.learnersdictionary.com/definition/rather (See entries 2a, 2b.)

      I’d edit your other example to read: Don’t trip, but rather step.
      I do think your other variation works nicely: Don’t trip. Rather, step. This is most similar to Webster’s 2a entry about chocolate.

      Happy writing to you! Concise poetry is a challenge, but I’m sure the results are powerful in their impact.

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