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I know the idiom is "I would rather... Than" as in ”I'd rather play football than stay at home", but can I substitute "than" with "instead of"?

"I'd rather play football instead of stay at home". Is this sentence correct?

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  • You can look here
    – DialFrost
    Apr 27, 2022 at 11:51
  • Would rather is normally followed by than. You can use instead of with other expressions, for example "I wish I was out playing football instead of having to stay at home", Apr 27, 2022 at 12:53

2 Answers 2

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E.g. minimal pairs:

  • I would rather walk than run

  • I walk instead of running

  • I would rather eat apples than oranges

  • I eat apples instead of oranges

  • I would rather walk quickly than quietly

  • I walk quickly instead of quietly

There really isn't much of a difference, except perhaps "would rather" implies preference whereas "instead of" implies substitution. But that might be nitpicking. And it doesn't seem to apply when using it to coordinate adverbs (last pair).

And no, your sentence is not correct if you substitute in "instead of", and it should be

I'd rather be playing football instead of staying at home

But regardless, try to use "than" more as it is more suited in most contexts.

"rather than" vs "instead of" link

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Your sentence is not correct. It should be:

I'd rather play football instead of staying at home.

Here is why:

In the following sentence the forms of the verbs "play" and "stay" are dictated by "I'd rather":

  1. I would rather play football than stay at home.

In the following sentence the form of the verb "play" is dictated by "would rather" and the form of the verb "stay" is dictated by "instead of":

  1. I would rather play football instead of staying at home.

However, as mentioned by @FumbleFingers, the above sentence sounds clunky due to a lack of parallelism. A more natural sentence would be:

  1. I would rather be playing football instead of staying at home.

Out of the above three sentence, again as pointed out by @FumbleFingers, the first (would rather... than...) is the most natural.

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    I don't agree with your reasoning. The continuous/gerund in your final version looks clunky to my. At the very least, I'd expect the "parallelism" of I would rather be playing football instead of staying at home. But regardless of the verb form, than is far better than instead of in all such contexts. Apr 27, 2022 at 12:19
  • @FumbleFingers. I still think I got my reasoning right. The possible forms of "play" are dictated by "would rather" and the possible forms of "stay" are dictated by "instead of", aren't they? What you object to is the clunkiness of "I would rather play football instead of staying at home" due to a lack of parallelism, which I completely agree with. I had a nagging feeling that there was something not quite right with the sentence but couldn't exactly put my finder on it. I'm going to modify my answer to reflect this. Please do let me know what you think of the revised version.
    – PPH
    Apr 27, 2022 at 13:32
  • Your answer is fine now.
    – Lambie
    Oct 5, 2022 at 20:43

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