Which phrase should I use,"in her stead" or "instead of her"? I encounterted the both. Is there any difference in meaning?

  • 3
    I never realized until today that "instead of her" is related to "in her stead"! To me, at least, they are very separate concepts, and I never would have thought of using one in the stead of another. :)
    – Numeri
    Commented Apr 5, 2016 at 22:19

3 Answers 3


"Instead of her" is the more common phrase, but it's also a matter of context. "Instead of her" can refer to a single other person, or multiple other people. "I'd rather spend a weekend with anybody, instead of her" or "I gave it to Lucy, instead of her." In either use, it has an implied exclusion - something happens to B, but not A.

"In her stead" has a different connotation, more legal. For the definition of stead, Random House gives us:

the place of a person or thing as occupied by a successor or substitute

While "instead" does loop back to this definition, because it's derived from the same sources, "a stead" is something that a person can have. If you have proxy power for somebody, say as a shareholder in a company, you can "vote in her stead" while also casting your own vote. You're not "voting instead of her", because you're voting, too. It's inclusive - A happens, and B happens, just not by the person who is usually entitled to do B.

  • 7
    This is an important distinction. When Alice acts in Penelope's stead, Alice is Penelope's agent, doing for Penelope what Penelope has the authority to do for herself, but has delegated to Alice. When Penelope's tenants give Alice the rent check, everyone understands they are providing the money for Penelope's benefit. When someone says they'll vote for Ted Cruz or John Kasich instead of Donald Trump, they're not in any way saying that their vote is to Trump's benefit; quite the opposite in fact. Commented Apr 5, 2016 at 18:18
  • @MontyHarder so, "in her stead" just means "for her", right? As in "I voted in condo meeting for my dad because he was ill".
    – Anixx
    Commented Apr 16, 2021 at 10:01
  • @Anixx With the added implication that the vote was made as the dad would have made it, were he placing the vote himself.
    – T.J.L.
    Commented Apr 16, 2021 at 12:29

"In her stead" is very literary - I don't think anybody would use it in ordinary conversation, and not many people would use it in writing. "Instead of her" is normal.

  • 1
    By "literary" do you mean "bookish" or "exact"?
    – Anixx
    Commented Apr 5, 2016 at 12:25
  • 3
    I mean "bookish", the only meaning of "literary" that I am familiar with. I think you are confusing it with "literal".
    – Colin Fine
    Commented Apr 5, 2016 at 12:26
  • @ColinFine I agree. "Instead of her" is definitely what I would use in ordinary conversation and writing. "In her stead" makes me think of standing in for her in a duel or something like that.
    – Kevin
    Commented Apr 5, 2016 at 14:45
  • @Colin Fine You mean "it was literary blown up" is incorrect?
    – Anixx
    Commented Apr 6, 2016 at 3:23
  • 3
    "it was literary blown up" is incorrect. Literary is related to writing. It is an adjective. While the correct adverb in your sentence would be "it was literally blown up" Commented Apr 6, 2016 at 4:25

"In her stead" may imply you are acting in her behalf or with her consent. It may imply the substitution is being done in a formal or official context.

"Instead of her" makes no such implications. It means only that it's you, not her.

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