General Writing and Grammar Help/use of "rather than"

Advertisement


Question
Dear Ted,  

Can you please tell me if “rather than” is a correlative conjunction in the following sentences:

[1]  “I would die rather than lie to you.”

[2]  “I gave you the book rather than sell it to you.”   

[3]  “I would rather die than lie to you.”


I am trying to find out if “rather than” must be separated by other words as in example #3 in order to be a correlative conjunction.

Thank you very much.

Sincerely,

Rich

Answer
Dear Rich:

Can you please tell me if “rather than” is a correlative conjunction in the following sentences:

[1]  “I would die rather than lie to you.”

[2]  “I gave you the book rather than sell it to you.”   

[3]  “I would rather die than lie to you.”


I am trying to find out if “rather than” must be separated by other words as in example #3 in order to be a correlative conjunction.

*** I have been searching for examples of "separated" correlative conjunctions, and I did find one.  What separates "correlative" from "coordinating" conjunctions is the rule that "correlatives" join two things of equal form which are connected in a parallel manner.

For example, if the first instance [in your case, the word(s) that follow "rather"] is an infinitive, what follows "than" must also be an infinitive.

*** It is my opinion that your example #3 fits the definition of correlation, even if there is an intervening word.

RATHER DIE
THAN LIE

*** So, unless I find some rule to the contrary, I believe that all three of your sentences are correct.  I did find some interesting material at three sites that I recommend you read.
This is the one example I found:

She’d rather play the drums than sing.

That example comes from the third site:

http://grammar.ccc.commnet.edu/grammar/grammarlogs4/grammarlogs568.htm

http://www.talkenglish.com/Grammar/conjunctions-coordinating-correlative.aspx

http://grammar.yourdictionary.com/parts-of-speech/conjunctions/correlative-conju



When "rather than" is used as a conjunction, it is important to make the two things thus connected parallel in form: "I like working in a bakery rather than working in a factory." But sometimes "rather than" is a preposition, and then the two things being compared will not necessarily be in the same form. That's what happening in your second sentence about the students thinking for themselves. A nearly identical sentence is in Bryan Garner's guide: "Rather than staying home on a Saturday night, we went out to six different bars."

From The Oxford Dictionary of American Usage and Styleby Bryan Garner. Copyright 1995 by Bryan A. Garner. Published by Oxford University Press, Inc., www.oup-usa.org, and used with the gracious consent of Oxford University Press.


Ted

General Writing and Grammar Help

All Answers


Answers by Expert:


Ask Experts

Volunteer


Ted Nesbitt

Expertise

I am the bibliographic instruction and reference librarian at a public college. Some members of the English department recommend me to their students. I offer assistance in grammar, punctuation, sentence structure, and paragraph development. My master`s thesis concerns William Faulkner`s tragic novels. I formerly taught advanced placement English at two schools in the Philadelphia area.

Experience

I have been one of the highest-ranked volunteers in this category for more than a decade.

Education/Credentials
B. A. and M. A in English; MSIS in Library & Information Sciences; graduate study in philosophy

©2016 About.com. All rights reserved.