'I would rather die than for this to happen.'

Does this sentence make sense and sound natural? I saw it. But i am not sure..


I am guessing that your question is not about the meaning, or the hyperbole, but about the grammar.

The answer is, yes, it is odd; but yes, it is natural.

When the subject is the same, you get the pattern you would expect, with two parallel finite verbs:

I would rather die than go to Lancashire.

When there are two explicit subjects, that can't be used, and there is no way to attach a normal clause after "than". But we can attach a clause that behaves like a noun phrase, and there are two constructions which are used. A "that" clause:

I would rather die than that he should succeed.

and a "for" construction:

I would rather die than for him to succeed.

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  • I have never seen 'that clause' after 'than'.. could you show me some public examples? – Wannaknowmore Jan 15 '18 at 3:42
  • This is very unnatural to me. The way that is natural is, "I would rather die than let it happen" – SovereignSun Jan 15 '18 at 4:06
  • Not many examples; but COHA shows The Runaway (1852): "he felt that he had rather die than that they should know of his disgrace." And several translations of 1 Corinthians 9:15 come close to it, though only the World English Bible has precisely " I would rather die, than that anyone should make my boasting void." The Berean Study Bible has "rather die than for anyone to nullify my boast." Many versions are compared here – Colin Fine Jan 15 '18 at 12:24

English has a handful of idioms expressing the idea "I do not want X."

I would prefer to get a root canal without anaesthesia than X."

I would rather have to clean Grand Central Station with a toothbrush than X."

Or any variety of unpleasant things that one might claim to be better than X. All of these are meant somewhat sarcastically, and not at all literal.

Substituting death for X is just an extreme example of this type of idiom. Of course, the speaker does not actually want to die, any more that I want a root canal.

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Yes it makes sense.

It's an example of hyperbole, a form of exaggeration used for effect. It's not to be taken literally. The person would not really rather die.

It's similar to expressions such as:

"I nearly died laughing!"

"I'd rather gouge my eyes out than do X."

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