"You are lying in wait here trying to kill that man? Ha! You will sooner get killed by another man who wants you dead! Stop that!" BY SAMUEL WHITE (WAR ZONE)

I have a feeling that this usage of "sooner" sounds ungrammatical. If not, does it mean "you will get killed by someone before you can kill the man you want dead?" Is this a poetic usage of "sooner?"


No it’s not a poetic usage of sooner, actually it’s a very common usage is the superiority degree of comparison of the time adverb soon. We don’t say more soon, we say sooner.

It is commonly used this way:

He came home sooner than his friend,

Or simply:

He came home sooner,

like in your context without being mentioned an object (another time sequence) to be compared to.


Lucian Sava's answer is right on the mark. You should also be aware that when sooner qualifies a futurive statement like this it often marks the statement as ‘probabilistic’ rather than strictly ‘predictive’; event A occurs more frequently than event B, so A will probably occur before B:

It is more likely that you will get killed by another man.

And when sooner is coupled with would it usually expresses priority in preference instead of time—it has the same sense as rather:

I would sooner be eaten by wolves than listen to Prof. Sartorius lecture.

  • thank you for explaining “when sooner is coupled with would”, I didn’t know it so far. I only knew “would rather and had better”. – Lucian Sava Jun 10 '14 at 6:11

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