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I'm facing to a little grammatical problem.

While I was practicing my English with the make/do usage, I answered myself:

What should I choose in this sentence,
a. make rather than do
b. make or rather do.

As you see the problem is about the usage of "rather" and his other form "or rather". In my native language this two forms are completely different, because rather is used when we are decided about something :

In this case I would rather choose the blue car.

Whereas, the "or rather" form is opposed to the first one. We use it to share our indecision.

I have a preference for the blue car, or rather the red one.

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    The "car construction" does not share indecision: it means that you meant to say "red" instead of "blue." So it is a third form. – Yorik Oct 30 '15 at 19:48
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What should I choose in this sentence, make rather than do?
What should I choose in this sentence, make or rather do?

Neither expression is the right choice in this situation.

If you have not decided yet, and are contemplating the decision, then simple 'or' should suffice:

What should I choose in this sentence, make or do?

Additional words you can use are "perhaps", "maybe" and similar.

What should I choose in this sentence, make or perhaps do?

If you lean towards one choice already, then your "rather... than" could work, and then it's not a question anymore, it's a statement:

What should I choose in this sentence? Rather make than do.

The second sentence here is incomplete, the predicate is missing, but colloquially, and in ruminations (talking to yourself), they are fine.

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    I think your assertion that neither is correct is wrong. Both of them are equivalent to your "make or do" construction and neither are particularly awkward. – Yorik Oct 30 '15 at 19:47
  • I didn't say they weren't correct. – Victor Bazarov Oct 30 '15 at 20:00
  • Seems your two first explications are the most suitable in this case. As well they look very simple and i'm worrying about this simplicity because i would like to use a formal phrase. From my experience the simplest phrases are the worst when they appear in formal exams like Toefl. Otherwise, do you think that my habitude to try and do complex phrase can become a handicap for a no native english speaker as I am. Someone has told me the best way to attempt this kind of exam is to write by the simplest way we are able to do. – jr28 Oct 30 '15 at 20:05
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    I think you gave good advice generally, but you say neither is a proper fit for the purpose, implying there is a problem with their meaning (aka "not correct"; "wrong"; the opposite of "right choice"). In fact they are exactly equivalent to "make or do." (but yes, a little wordy) – Yorik Oct 30 '15 at 20:05
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You can use rather in three ways:

  • as an adverb or degree
  • to correct or clarify something
  • to express a preference.

The or rather construction is mainly used to correct or clarify something:

I will take you home when you are ready... or rather my husband will.

The rather than construction is used to indicate a preference:

I prefer tea rather than coffee

When you are asking for advice about a sentence, you are asking what is the preferred version, and so the rather than format is the most appropriate, although some listeners might feel that you favour the first of the two options:

What should I choose in this sentence, make rather than do?

If you want to ask the question strictly neutrally, you would simply ask:

What should I choose in this sentence, make or do?

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What should I choose in this sentence,
a) make rather than do.
b) make or rather do.

My brain went numb trying to understand the above sentence.


In this case I would rather choose the blue car.

"In this case" assumes that some "cases" are under consideration. It is really impossible to determine from the context what the "cases" are about. However only one of the cars can be blue. We don't know how many other cars there are or what the color mix is.

So of the choices that have been given, the speaker selects the blue car.


I have a preference for the blue car, or rather the red one.

So there are at least two car color options maybe more. There is only one red car and only one blue car. (But there may be 5 black cars too.)

So the speaker first selects the blue car, then she changes her mind and selects the red car.

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