RATHER THAN + non-finite clause | phrase

Let’s look at how ‘rather than‘ is used to compare.  In the English Vocabulary Profile, at B1 the meaning is:  ‘instead of ‘

I‘d like coffee rather than tea.
usually wear a swimsuit rather than shorts.

In the above examples: coffee, tea, a swimsuit, shorts are nouns or noun phrases, so ‘rather than‘ or ‘instead of‘ are complex prepositions. Here’s a student example with longer phrases in a speaking test:

would go to Masterchef India because they concentrate more on their emotional background story rather than the dish itself.

TLC female India B2

In the following expert example, we can see this structure used with adverbs:

would like to do it sooner rather than later. 

(navytimes.com)

This example actually has two non-finite verbs, with TO-infinitive.  We can rewrite it without the ellipsis:

  • I would like to do it sooner rather than I would like to do it later.

Also, notice the modality with ‘would’ expressing preference or an imagined situation in the above examples is common.  The next example uses the non-finite VERB-ing clause at the start of the sentence:

Rather than focusing on individuals, we should focus on the circles around them.

(Listen to this sentence)


In the English Grammar Profile, in the category of clauses and comparatives, there are two similar points that stress one element in comparison.

Point 97 at B2 is defined as:

RATHER THAN + NON-FINITE CLAUSE

Point 54 at B1 is defined as

RATHER THAN + noun PHRASE or prepositional phrase

*Also notice below the ambiguity between what constitutes form and use on the EGP:

There is no difference.  Both points are ‘form’.


Corpus research examples for ‘rather than

When we do a cluster search on iWeb

rather than * * *

with POS tags:

1 RATHER THAN LATER. 4245

2 RATHER THAN THE OTHER WAY 1476

4 RATHER THAN FOCUSING ON  THE  1221

(B2 grammar and vocabulary)

A collocate search on this cluster either side reveals ‘negative’ as the most frequent.

5 RATHER THAN THE RULE.  1167 (B1 grammar and B1 vocabulary)

* Note the main collocated to the left is ‘exception’ which is B2 or above vocabulary.  Making this cluster not ideal to teach to B1 students.

6 RATHER THAN RELYING ON THE 1008
7 RATHER  THAN WAITING FOR THE 757

8 RATHER THAN THE EXCEPTION. 755

9 RATHER (CS21) THAN (CS22) LATER (RRR) . (.) (NULL) 621
10 RATHER (II21) THAN (II22) RELYING (VVG) ON (II) A (AT1) 608
11 RATHER (CS21) THAN (CS22) LATER (RRR) . (.) Q! (Q!) 601
12 RATHER (CS21) THAN (CS22) LATER (RRR) . (.) ” (”) 568
13 RATHER (II21) THAN (II22) BEING (VBG) ABLE (JK) TO (TO) 548
14 RATHER (II21) THAN (II22) LOOKING (VVG) AT (II) THE (AT) 547
15 RATHER (II21) THAN (II22) HAVING (VHG) TO (TO) WAIT (VVI) 527
16 RATHER (II21) THAN (II22) HAVING (VHG) TO (TO) GO (VVI) 523
17 RATHER (II21) THAN (II22) TRYING (VVG) TO (TO) GET (VVI) 512
18 RATHER (RR@) THAN (CSN) ALL (RR31) AT (RR32) ONCE (RR33) 503
19 RATHER (II21) THAN (II22) TRYING (VVG) TO (TO) MAKE (VVI) 452
20 RATHER (II21_CS21@) THAN (II22_CS22@) , (,) SAY (VV0) , (,) 421
21 RATHER (CS21) THAN (CS22) FOCUS (VVI) ON (II) THE (AT) 419
22 RATHER (II21) THAN (II22) WAITING (VVG) FOR (IF) A (AT1) 416
23 RATHER (CS21) THAN (CS22) LATER (RRR) . (.) THE (AT) 415
24 RATHER (II21) THAN (II22) GOING (VVG) TO (II) THE (AT) 407
25 RATHER (CS21@_II21) THAN (CS22@_II22) , (,) SAY (VV0) , (,) 404
26 RATHER (II21) THAN (II22) GOING (VVG) THROUGH (II) THE (AT) 393
27 RATHER (II21) THAN (II22) TRYING (VVG) TO (TO) DO (VDI) 389
28 RATHER (CS21) THAN (CS22) WAIT (VVI) FOR (IF) THE (AT) 384
29 RATHER (RR@) THAN (CSN) VICE (RR21) VERSA (RR22) . (.) 371
30 RATHER (II21_CS21@) THAN (II22_CS22@) JUST (RR_JJ@) ONE (MC1_PN1) . (.) 343
31 RATHER (II21) THAN (II22) TRYING (VVG) TO (TO) FIND (VVI) 336
32 RATHER (CS21) THAN (CS22) RELY (VVI) ON (II) THE (AT) 333
33 RATHER (CS21) THAN (CS22) LATER (RRR) , (,) AND (CC) 325
34 RATHER (CS21) THAN (CS22) GO (VVI) THROUGH (II) THE (AT) 321

35 RATHER THAN BEING FORCED TO 316

36 RATHER (II21) THAN (II22) THE (AT) NUMBER (NN1) OF (IO) 313
37 RATHER (II21) THAN (II22) WAITING (VVG) UNTIL (II@_CS) THE (AT) 313

38 RATHER THAN CREATING A NEW  311

39 RATHER (II21) THAN (II22) ONE (MC1) OF (IO) THE (AT) 307
40 RATHER (CS21) THAN (CS22) LATER (RRR) . (.) I (PPIS1) 302
41 RATHER (CS21) THAN (CS22) DEAL (VVI) WITH (IW) THE (AT) 295
42 RATHER (II21) THAN (II22) RELYING (VVG) SOLELY (RR) ON (II) 292
43 RATHER (II21) THAN (II22) DEALING (VVG) WITH (IW) THE (AT) 287
44 RATHER (II21) THAN (II22) FOCUSING (VVG) ON (II) WHAT (DDQ) 287
45 RATHER (CS21) THAN (CS22) LATER (RRR) , (,) ” (”) 284
46 RATHER (II21) THAN (II22) TRYING (VVG) TO (TO) BE (VBI) 278
47 RATHER (II21_CS21@) THAN (II22_CS22@) ANYTHING (PN1) ELSE (RR) . (.) 264
48 RATHER (II21) THAN (II22) THE (AT) NORM (NN1) . (.) 258
49 RATHER (II21) THAN (II22) THAT (DD1) OF (IO) THE (AT) 255
50 RATHER (II21) THAN (II22) WORRYING (VVG@_JJ) ABOUT (II) THE (AT) 250
51 RATHER (II21) THAN (II22) FOCUSING (VVG) ON (II_RP@) A (AT1) 248

52 RATHER THAN ALLOWING THEM TO 244 (B2 grammar B1 vocabulary)

53 RATHER (II21) THAN (II22) BEING (VBG) LIMITED (VVN) TO (II) 233
54 RATHER (II21) THAN (II22) HAVING (VHG) TO (TO) USE (VVI) 231
55 RATHER (II21) THAN (II22) ALLOWING (VVG) IT (PPH1) TO (TO) 229
56 RATHER (CS21) THAN (CS22) GO (VVI) TO (II) THE (AT) 226
57 RATHER (CS21) THAN (CS22) LATER (RRR) . (.) IF (CS) 225
58 RATHER (II21) THAN (II22) THE (AT) RULE (NN1) , (,) 223
59 RATHER (II21) THAN (II22) TRYING (VVG) TO (TO) FORCE (VVI) 220
60 RATHER (CS21) THAN (CS22) LATER (RRR) , (,) BUT (CCB) 219

61 RATHER THAN A SERIES OF 218

(B1 grammar and vocabulary)

 

 

62 RATHER (II21) THAN (II22) HAVING (VHG) TO (TO) BE (VBI) 216
63 RATHER (II21) THAN (II22) GOING (VVG) TO (II) A (AT1) 212

 

64 RATHER THAN THE MORE COMMON  210

(B1 grammar and vocabulary)

*However, we should note an additional comparative structure.

 

If we do a collocate search up to 9 spaces to the right of ‘rather than’ in the COCA corpus: