1. Rather is common in BrE as a so-called ‘downtoner’, i.e. an adverb that reduces the effect of the following adjective, adverb, or noun, as in It is rather expensive, You were driving rather fast, and He's rather a fool. With nouns, the sequence is rather + a + singular noun, and the construction is not possible in the plural, so instead of ☒ They're rather fools you have to say They're rather foolish. When rather qualifies an adjective followed by a noun, two sequences are possible: rather a large glass or a rather large glass; the plural construction is rather large glasses.
2. The phrase rather than has two main meanings which shade into each other: (1) ‘in preference to’, and (2) ‘instead of’. When a noun follows there is little difficulty: I suggested beer rather than wine. With other parts of speech certain difficulties arise:
a) With pronouns, the case of the pronoun following rather than is normally the same as the word preceding rather than: I wanted to see her rather than him / She, rather than he, decided to come.
b) With verbs, an -ing form is used after rather than when the meaning tends towards ‘instead of’:

When she voiced her grievances quietly and calmly, rather than screaming them, her family paid attention to her for the first time —M. Herbert, 1989


Shareholders are greedy, that's why they buy shares rather than blowing their excess earnings on flashier cars or champagne —weblog, BrE 2004

. When the balance is between individual words and not phrases or clauses, the forms used before and after rather than tend to match:

This is the first time during a downturn in the economy when training by companies has increased rather than decreasedHansard, 1992


In the video Jones is, in the main, observing rather than advocating the ruthless antics of the hard menDaily Mirror, 1992


For decades afterwards, successive leaders attempted to utilise, rather than destroy, the Peronist bequestSpiked Online, 2004

[OEC] /

Mr Cameron admitted using the drug, but escaped the most serious punishment because he only smoked it, rather than traded in itIndependent, 2007

c) When the meaning is more to do with preference and rejection than with parallel alternatives, and so especially after the verb prefer itself, an infinitive (with or without to) is more natural after rather than:

Better to part with what they must now, rather than lose more later —M. Shadbolt, 1986


Many Vietnamese soldiers preferred to kill themselves rather than be capturedIndependent, 1989

/ Key executives will resign rather than face negative media attention —Dollars and Sense Magazine, AmE 2003 [OEC]. (For prefer see also prefer 3.)
d) A mixed style, with an infinitive before and a verbal noun after rather than, is less natural in contexts based clearly on preference rather than alternatives:

I can't believe any sane parent would send their kids to a camp that actually advocates that their kids should kill themselves rather than being gay —weblog, AusE 2005

3. After a comparative form such as better, more, etc., than and not rather than is the preferred construction, although rather than is sometimes more natural when the two parts of the construction are far apart in the sentence:

• It is better to give way and let them have what they want rather than standing up for the rule of law —R. Muldoon, 1986.

4. The expression would rather (and its contracted form as in I'd rather etc.) is complemented by than + infinitive (without to):

• A college would rather fall below its intake targets and lose revenue than take in sociology students —R. Holland, 1977

• I felt lucky to make it out of the country alive and would rather boil my testicles than risk returning —Sunday Times, 2006.

For had rather, see had 3.

Modern English usage. 2014.

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  • Rather — Rath er (r[a^][th] [ e]r; 277), adv. [AS. hra[eth]or, compar. of hra[eth]e, hr[ae][eth]e, quickly, immediately. See {Rath}, a.] [1913 Webster] 1. Earlier; sooner; before. [Obs.] [1913 Webster] Thou shalt, quod he, be rather false than I. Chaucer …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

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  • Rather — is a family name. It is also an adverb in the English language.Rather may refer to:* Dan Rather, news presenter * Elizabeth Rather, expert in the computer programming language Forthsurname …   Wikipedia

  • rather — ► ADVERB 1) (would rather) indicating one s preference in a particular matter. 2) to a certain or significant extent or degree. 3) on the contrary. 4) more precisely. 5) instead of; as opposed to. ► EXCLAMATION Brit. dated …   English terms dictionary

  • Rather — ist der Name folgender Personen: Rather von Verona (um 887 974), Theologe und Bischof von Verona und Lüttich Dan Rather (* 1931), US amerikanischer Journalist Diese Seite ist eine Begriffsklärung zur Unterscheidung mehrerer …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • rather — [adv1] moderately a bit, a little, averagely, comparatively, enough, fairly, in a certain degree, kind of, more or less, passably, pretty, quite, ratherish, reasonably, relatively, slightly, some, something, somewhat, sort of, so so*, tolerably,… …   New thesaurus

  • Rather — Rath er (r[a^][th] [ e]r), a. [Compar. of {Rath}, a.] Prior; earlier; former. [Obs.] [1913 Webster] Now no man dwelleth at the rather town. Sir J. Mandeville. [1913 Webster] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • rather — O.E. hraþor more quickly, earlier, sooner, also more readily, comparative of hraþe, hræþe quickly, related to hræð quick, from P.Gmc. *khrathuz (Cf. O.N. hraðr, O.H.G. hrad). The base form rathe was obsolete by 18c. except in poetry; superlative… …   Etymology dictionary

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  • rather — predeterminer, adverb 1 (+ adj/adv) quite; fairly: I was rather surprised to see him with his ex wife. | He was limping rather badly as he walked off the field. | It s not too big for you at all. I rather like the way it fits you. | rather a big… …   Longman dictionary of contemporary English

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