rather than surfing /oranges [rather than + gerund/noun]

seanhu

Senior Member
Chinese
My question is whether the phrase of rather than + gerund or noun could be used at the beginning of the sentence like Rather than surfing the internet (gerund), he likes reading books. or Rather than oranges (noun), he prefers apples. ? Would it sounds a bit weird in the daily use of your native speakers?
 
  • loghrat

    Senior Member
    British English / Danish
    My question is whether the phrase of rather than + gerund or noun could be used at the beginning of the sentence like 1)Rather than surfing the internet (gerund), he likes reading books. or 2)Rather than oranges (noun), he prefers apples. ? Would it sounds a bit weird in the daily use of your native speakers?
    Sentence 1) sounds OK to me.... on second thoughts, if I was going to use 'rather', I think I would say 'He would rather read a book than surf the internet'.
    Sentence 2) sounds slightly awkward to me, I would rephrase it as : 'He prefers apples to oranges.'
    Sentence 1) could, of course, similarly be rephrased : He prefers reading ('books' is not required) to surfing the internet.
     
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    seanhu

    Senior Member
    Chinese
    Thank you for your answer, loghrat. Would you please tell me that have you ever seen any sentence in the structure as rather than + gerund or noun used at the beginning of the sentence? I emphasize that it should appear at the beginning of the sentence because I know it does work at other part of the sentence. Thank you in advance!
     

    srk

    Senior Member
    English - US
    Here's an Ngram showing "Rather than" followed by a variety of words. "Rather than being" and "Rather than using" are among the phrases graphed, and the links under the graph show the phrases sometimes beginning sentences.

    Your first example sounds natural to me.

    Edit: One of the links happens to lead to a source containing two examples on the same page. One starts a sentence with "Rather than" followed by a noun, the other with "Rather than" followed by a gerund.
     
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    Parla

    Member Emeritus
    English - US
    It's okay to start the sentence with the "rather" part (that is, it's not wrong), but as I think Loghrat is suggesting, starting with the positive (the preferred activity) just seems to read better.
     

    Thomas Tompion

    Senior Member
    English - England
    Hello Seanhu,

    Putting the rather than at the start of the sentence is not very dangerous, or clumsy necessarily, but you need to follow a few conventions of style.

    Look at these two sentences, both from the COCA, the AE corpus:

    1. Rather than directly target the systems people use, phishing attacks target the people using the systems.

    2. Rather than a positive sign of America's changing attitude toward homosexuality, Lee's cowboy drama is an indication of the lack of progress Hollywood has made in dealing with the subject of homosexuality.


    In 1., Phishing attacks target the people rather than the systems.

    In 2., Lee's drama is an indication of the lack of progress rather than of the changing attitude.

    Both examples are entirely idiomatic and natural, in my view; the parallel is being drawn with the object or part of the object of the main clause.

    Let's look at your sentence which is closest to these, your second sentence, Rather than oranges (noun), he prefers apples.

    People don't like this much because, I suspect, of the verb chosen. They'd probably be happy with Rather than oranges, he likes apples for breakfast.:tick:

    Let's consider your first sentence Rather than surfing the internet (gerund), he likes reading books.

    Here's a quite similar and entirely idiomatic sentence from the COCA:

    Rather than creating a club that focused on a particular hobby or targeted interest area, the students sought to connect with their community through service projects that could have an impact on neighborhood residents near the school.

    Notice that the parallelism is between creating and sought. In your example it's between surfing and reading. Put your parallel between your gerund and the main verb and your sentence becomes entirely natural, in my view:

    Rather than surfing the internet, he reads a book.:tick:
     
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