Touch screens are electronic visual displays that allow a user to interact directly with what is displayed on the screen, rather than ___________ a pointing device, such as a mouse.

Which is the correct word to be filled in the blank in this sentence, "use", "using", or "to use"?

I prefer to use "using", but is "use" also OK? How about "to use"?

  • If a two-word answer is allowed, I'd say "indirectly with" fits best. – Damkerng T. Nov 12 '14 at 16:19
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    You are comparing two ways of human–computer interaction. So, I think the full answer would be "to interact indirectly using" or "to interact indirectly with" as @DamkerngT. has pointed out. Now compare: "using a pointing device", "use a pointing device", and "to use a pointing device". So "using a pointing device" is the best because it has the same meaning as "to interact indirectly using a pointing device" – Santi Santichaivekin Dec 6 '14 at 14:48

Good question.

Cambridge Dictionary has an entry for this. It says...

We use rather than to give more importance to one thing when two alternatives or preferences are being compared:

Good to note that when we use 'rather than' with a verb, which is the case here, we use the base form or (less commonly) the -ing form of a verb.

For example...

I would prefer to leave now rather than to wait.

Another reference with good information is here.

Rather than is normally used in parallel structures: for example with two adjectives, adverbs, nouns, infinitives or -ing forms. When the main clause has a to-infinitive, rather than is normally followed by an infinitive without to. An -ing form is also possible.

So, to answer your question, it could be simply 'use' OR 'using'.

  • my guess was use – learner Dec 9 '14 at 5:50
  • @learner And your guess matches the grammarians lol :) – Maulik V Dec 9 '14 at 5:52

Robert Burchfield says that rather than can be followed by an -ing form, a bare infinitive or a to- infinitive. He suggests that "matching forms are best in in the clause preceding and following rather than". If you follow Burchfield's advice, to use, matching to interact, is the best form.

Burchfield R (1996.652), The New Fowler's Modern English Usage.

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    I don't think it's about matching "interact". The sentence lists two variants of interaction: "interact directly" and "interact using a pointing device", so the best form is "using" - second "interact" is ellipsed, while "using" remains "using". – Kreiri Nov 12 '14 at 8:55
  • You could also say "rather than having to use", but the "V-ing" construction is still there. – miltonaut Dec 5 '14 at 2:20

'To use' would be the most structurally correct, since it's being compared in preference to the infinitive, 'to interact'. However, it's totally permissible to compare an infinitive to a participle. 'Using' yields the best conversational flow.

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