I was watching a concert and I noticed that the band 'rather' jumps around than (to) play clean.

Is the sentence in the title grammatically correct or does it need the gerund form of the word 'play' or the base form 'to play' ? And do I need to say 'they would rather' instead of 'they rather' because my fiancee pointed out that I should say that but I object to this since 'would' suggests it's a wish and I'm stating a fact here.

Thanks in advance!


The idiom is "would rather (X) than (Y)" where (X) and (Y) are the plain form of the verb - grammatically it is a special case of "would (X)". The meaning is "prefer to (X) rather than (Y)", with no sense of wishing or of a conditional.

So the normal form is certainly "They would rather jump about than play clean".

However, in speech, "they would" become "they'd"; and the 'd' may be barely audible; so you may hear (or think you hear) "They rather jump about ... "

By the way, "play clean" is not an idiom to me, and I can only guess what you might mean by it.

  • Thank you! 'Play clean' just means they focus on playing their instruments properly and try to avoid unwanted sound-feedbacks/disruptions. – Chris Nov 13 '16 at 19:59
  • I guessed that might be what you meant. But only from context, and only because you contrasted it to "jump around". Otherwise I would have had little idea. – Colin Fine Nov 13 '16 at 20:12
  • In British English, an alternative word order would be "the band jumps around rather than plays clean". In your original sentence, the inconsistency between singular "jumps" and plural "play" seems wrong - both singular or both plural would be OK, since a "band" can be considered either as single entity, or as group of individual musicians. – alephzero Nov 13 '16 at 21:38
  • In that different construction, @alephzero, the verbs are finite, and the question of singular vs plural arises. But in the original construction there needs to be a would (or 'd) and the verbs aren't finite and singular vs plural doesn't arise. – Colin Fine Nov 14 '16 at 0:48
  • @ColinFine Is there a case where you can use 'to' because In some 'would rather.....than' constructions, it sounds odd to omit it, e.g. in this sentence: 'You'd rather sleep with a pile of clothes on the bed than (to) put it way'. If I omit 'to', I feel strongly inclined to using the gerund 'putting' because it sounds somewhat smoother (but it's probably not right). – Chris Nov 15 '16 at 7:27

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