Different Uses of The Word ‘Rather and Rather+’


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The word ‘rather’ and ‘rather+’ like rather than, rather like, or rather and others have different meanings and uses in English. The expressions formed with them, particularly ‘rather+’ have very important applications in English learning. 

Well, first let us know what part of speech rather is and how it works. It is mainly used as an adverb, particularly as a degree adverb.

Functions of Rather : We often use it to give emphasis to an adjective, verb or even an adverb. It is also used to express alternatives or choices and preferences. It is as well used to express something surprising or unexpected.

In brief, it alone or with other words is used to put or express ‘Emphasis, Choices or Preferences, Alternatives and Surprises.’

Uses of Rather as a Degree Adverb : 

Rather’ as a degree adverb is used to give emphasis to an adjective or even another adverb. Besides, we use it to express something surprising or unexpected. It has a similar meaning to quite when quite is used with gradable words. But rather is more formal than quite. Have a look at the sentences below :

1. Have you looked at the girl standing next to the shop? She is rather beautiful. (meaning more than beautiful). One can also say ‘she is quite beautiful’. (Hopefully you already know the differences between them.)

2. My boss is rather busy today. (Meaning he usually remains busy at office. But he is more busy than other days).
3. Yesterday my son did his homework rather quickly. (Here rather is used to express surprise).
4. The tenant, who lives next to my flat, behaved rather badly with the newspaper hawker last week. (here Rather is used to mean something unexpected)

Uses of `Rather+’  like rather than, rather like and others : 

First to note, though the word rather can be used alone, it is mainly used with other words such as like, than, a lot and others. Let us have a look at some of them :

Rather like : We use ‘rather like’ to denote or talk about similarities. In other words, it is used to mean ‘quite similar to’. Let us see how it is used in sentences :

1. Yesterday I noticed a girl standing beside the road along the journey to the office. She was rather like an angel! (meaning she looked like an angel).

2. Nowadays you will come across mobile phones in the market. They appear to be rather like small boxes made of wood!

3. From flights in the middle of the air, the houses or buildings or other infrastructures on the ground seem to be rather like dots.

Rather than : To express preferences or choices and alternatives between two things or among a set of things, we usually use ‘Rather than’. Look at the examples and see how it is applied :

1. My daughter wants to be a pilot rather than a doctor (when I put forward for her some career choices like doctor, engineer, pilots and others).
2. I would come and visit you on any Friday rather than Saturday.
3. Darling, could you pick this dress rather than that one as I think you will look gorgeous with it on?
4. Well, could we go to the cinema on Sunday rather than Friday (Friday is already scheduled for going to cinema. But now they are planning for alternative day).

Note : When we use rather than with a verb, we use the base form or the-ing form of the verb. Look at the following sentences :
1. Rather than taking (or take) tea, my friends wanted to have cold coffee on my birthday yesterday.
2. Rather than walking to office, I took ride sharing yesterday due to rain.

For self-correction, we use ‘or rather’

‘Or rather’ is used to correct ourselves. Look at the examples below and see how it is used :

1. He preferred to do business `rather than’ jobs on the ‘advice or rather suggestions’ from me.
2. The company made huge profits even during the pandemic on the back of the performance shown ‘by me or rather all the employees.’

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