There are certain sentences in which I am not sure whether to use "ing" or not. The sentences are:

  1. Why don't you do something else rather watch(watching?) TV.
  2. Why don't you do something else than watch(watching?) TV.
  3. Why don't you do something else rather than watch(watching?) TV.
  4. Keep(keeping?) that in mind I designed this rhyme to explain in due time.(source-verse one, third line)
  5. There are certain sentences in which I am not sure whether to avoid using(use?) "ing".
  6. But his disillusionment with the party saw him move(moving?) to Tinmod Congress in 2010 before hitting the headlines during the assembly elections... (Source: 'The Indian Express' News paper)
  7. 'Boma' starts with an early morning explosion on january 29, 1908 and a sequence that shows a group of revolutionaries mount(mounting?) an abortive attack in Deoghar to kill a British official. (Source: 'The Indian Express' news paper)

I think this much of sentences are sufficient to tell where I am getting problem. My question is, what is the grammar rule that decide whether ther should be "ing" or not. As far as I understand "ing" is used for a continuous action but in certain cases, for example, in the first sentence I can't decide whether watching TV is continuous or not because I remember the original sentence used watch instead of watching, but I don't remember where I heard this sentence.

  • #1 and #2 are invalid (because you need than after rather in this construction). It's a stylistic choice whether to use the unmarked infinitive verb (watch) or the gerund noun (watching) - the former contrasts with the preceding verb do, and the latter contrasts with the noun something else. Commented Jun 5, 2015 at 13:21
  • @FumbleFingers Why do I need than after rather?
    – user31782
    Commented Jun 5, 2015 at 13:41
  • Why is English written using only 26 different letters, rather than 97, for example? That's just the way the language works. You could replace both highlighted words in that context with just the single word not, but you can't use rather without than (or than without rather) in these "contrastive" constructions. Commented Jun 5, 2015 at 13:49
  • @FumbleFingers But there are some sentences in which than is not used after rather, e.g. this. "...and not incidentally, funneling money into the criminal subculture, there is something else rather distressing associated with these artifacts..." I am asking when to use than after rather and when not to.
    – user31782
    Commented Jun 5, 2015 at 14:01
  • The example in your comment is a totally different use of the word rather - it's a simple adverb/adjective meaning somewhat, to a certain extent, modifying the following word distressing, which could be omitted entirely without affecting the grammatical validity. The usage in your question is a two-word "subordinate conjunction". You can't just use half of it, or omit it completely. Commented Jun 5, 2015 at 14:08

2 Answers 2


Colloquially, to a native English speaker, the distinction in most of the sentences you cite is a small one. You would certainly be understood with either usage and most listeners would not even notice a problem. (Though, as commenters have noted, the bigger problem is that you have to say "rather than" in this construction.)

However, the proper grammatical usage is the infinitive construction. Why? Because that's the documented idiomatic construction and not really for any other reason.

Now, you might properly use the -ing construction in the following construction:

It is better to be swimming rather than [to be] running.

In that sentence, you would be using the infinitive of "be" which then requires an -ing form of the verb. (Thus, we are still using the infinitive after "rather than", but we have inserted the verb to be so that we can use the gerund form. The second to be is optional because it is implied already by the first to be.) There is a subtle distinction between the two sentences:

  1. It is better to swim rather than [to] run.

  2. It is better to be swimming rather than [to be] running.

These sentences above are not really interchangeable. The first makes a general point about the two forms of exercise (probably about the health effects), whereas the second sentence seems to comment on the time period during the action (perhaps it feels more pleasant or enjoyable).

Now, in your sentence #5, you should definitely say "to avoid using." Why? Because certain verbs take "to verb" constructions and others take "verb-ing" constructions:

  1. I prefer to use chopsticks. [Correct]

  2. I prefer using chopsticks. [Can be correct in the right context, emphasizing the time during the action.]

  3. *I avoid to use chopsticks. [Incorrect. Avoid doesn't take a to+verb after it.]

Don't confuse the above constructions with:

  • I breathe to live. [I.e., I breathe in order to live.]

  • I was born to run. [I.e., I was born in order to run, a poetic way of saying that running is my reason for living.]

  • I was born running. [I came out of the womb with my legs running (probably a metaphorical use).]

Those are all different meanings and different grammatical constructions, even though they look similar.


My question is, what is the grammar rule that decide whether ther should be "ing" or not.

There's a few, because -ing forms of verbs have various uses.

  • First, -ing words are common helping verbs in a number of tenses, so if an -ing word follows a form of to be it's part of a the verb.

  • -ing words are always A) part of a verb, or B) functioning as a noun or modifier. An -ing word by itself cannot be the main verb of a sentence.

  • When you are using a verb as a noun, there are instances where you use the plain word, the -ing form, or to + the verb. Google "gerund vs. infinitive* for many guides that can help you know when to use which.

  • 2
    -ing verbs can also be used as adjectives, which is called a participle. Ex.: "I can't stop watching those dancing women." Dancing is an adjective that is attributed to women, in this case.
    – Crazy Eyes
    Commented Aug 4, 2015 at 17:56

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