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I have a sentence:

Please show me the right way so that I can do that rather than take blind action.

  1. Is this sentence grammatically correct?
  2. Can I use instead of to replace rather than? If replaced, the meaning of this sentence is changed?
  3. What is the difference between rather than and instead of? Can you show me some examples to distinguish them?
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    The original sentence itself is somewhat strange. Are you suggesting that you want to follow the right way rather than follow blind action? Following blind action doesn't really make sense to me. Do you perhaps want to say: Please show me the right way so I can do that rather than take blind action? – Jason Bassford Supports Monica Apr 12 at 1:56
  • Thanks Jason. The meaning of your sentence is just what I want to express. The Google Translate gave me this sentence I showed. I think it is ambiguous but I am not sure, so posting a question. Also I consider replacing “rather than” with “instead of” if the Google sentence is correct. – edgar Apr 12 at 2:28
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If you replaced rather than with instead of, I would also modify take:

Please show me the right way so that I can do that rather than take blind action.
Please show me the right way so that I can do that instead of taking blind action.

While you could keep it as take, I don't think it would sound quite as idiomatic. However, that may be open to opinion. Regardless of that, it doesn't change the main point of the question.


There is probably some extremely subtle difference in meaning (there always is if you change a word), but none that I can immediately discern—and certainly not one that would make you pick one over the other as an obviously better choice.

So, simply speaking, whichever one sounds or looks better to you, you can use that one. It won't make a different to how it's understood.

  • This is correct. The reason is that "instead of" can only take a noun phrase as an object, but "rather than" can compare any two phrases that act as the same part of speech. – the-baby-is-you Apr 12 at 5:14
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This is very idiomatic. The two phrases (or, more accurately, the two words: rather and instead) are used to accomplish the same thing: to suggest a preferred alternative. And yes, they can be substituted one for the other (with appropriate adjustments to the rest of the sentence). But there are times when that might sound awkward.

Would you like some tea?

Thank you, but I'd rather have water.

Becomes...

Would you like some tea?

Thank you, but I'd like water instead [of tea].

I'm from the western U.S. To me the second of my examples sounds awkward. I'd expect to hear the first example instead.

And you just saw a reasonable use of "instead" (or, "instead of the second example"). If I convert it to "rather," I get:

I'd rather hear the first example.

How to use "rather" and "instead" is, therefore, not an easy explanation (and that explanation will change depending on where each English speaker lives). You cannot directly replace one for the other. You need to adjust the sentence to accommodate the word you prefer.

  • Thank you JBH. In the context of your second example, I feel that the "instead" implies somewhat unhappiness or dissatisfaction of the customer responding to a bartender's question. – edgar Apr 13 at 1:24
  • You're welcome, though I'd like to point out that your observation about the implication of "instead" might be too rigid. Please keep that in mind. – JBH Apr 13 at 3:49
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Instead of is used when you were given a plan and you want to change it. This phrase stresses more strongly you cannot choose both variants. Imagine you are building a football team with a limited number of 8 players and someone gives you a list of names. If you agree with his selection except for one name, you could say

I would choose Steve instead of Homer.

Rather than connotes a situation where you are asked about something and you like both options and you need to choose your favourite. Even though this also usually means you cannot choose both, rather than feels a bit more formal because it highlights you like one option, rather than dislike the other. Thus, if you use it in a sentence like

I want Betty to do the job, rather than Michelle.

you can lighten the weight of your choice.

  • Probably, many thanks for your interpretation. – edgar Apr 13 at 1:28

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