Rather Definition

rather adverb (SMALL AMOUNT)

quite; to a slight degree:

It’s rather cold today, isn’t it?
That’s rather a difficult book – here’s an easier one for you.
The train was rather too crowded for a comfortable journey.
She answered the phone rather sleepily.
I rather doubt I’ll be able to come to your party.

rather adverb (MORE EXACTLY)

more accurately; more exactly:

She’ll fly to California on Thursday, or rather, she will if she has to.
He’s my sister’s friend really, rather than mine.

used to express an opposite opinion:

The ending of the war is not a cause for celebration, but rather for regret that it ever happened.
No, I’m not tired. Rather the opposite in fact.

rather adverb (PREFERENCE)

rather than

instead of; used especially when you prefer one thing to another:

I think I’d like to stay at home this evening rather than go out.


would rather

also ‘d rather used to show that you prefer to have or do one thing more than another:

I’d rather have a beer.
Which would you rather do – go swimming or play tennis?
Wouldn’t you rather finish it tomorrow?
He’d rather die than (= he certainly does not want to) let me think he needed help.

Rather Grammar


We use rather as a degree adverb (rather cold, rather nice). We also use it to express alternatives and preferences (green rather than blue, coffee rather than tea, slowly rather than quickly).


Rather as a degree adverb

We use rather to give emphasis to an adjective or adverb. It has a similar meaning to quite when quite is used with gradable words. It is more formal than quite. We often use it to express something unexpected or surprising:

A: You’re not just wasting your time here, are you?
B: No, I’m rather busy, in fact.

They walked rather slowly.
I’m afraid I behaved rather badly.


Rather with adjective + noun

With a/an we usually use rather a/an + adjective + noun, but we can also use a rather + adjective + noun. With other determiners (some, those) we use determiner + rather + adjective + noun:

We had to wait rather a long time. (or, less common, We had to wait a rather long time.)
He helped her out of rather an uncomfortable situation. (or He helped her out of a rather uncomfortable situation.)
I had some rather bad news today.
Not: I had rather some bad news today.


Rather a + noun

Rather a with a noun is more common in formal language than in informal language, particularly in writing:

It was rather a surprise to find them in the house before me.


Rather a lot

We often use rather with a lot to refer to large amounts and quantities:

It cost me rather a lot of money.
You’ve given me rather a lot.


We also use rather a lot to mean ‘often’:

They went there rather a lot.
You’ll be seeing rather a lot of me over the next few weeks.


Rather + verb

We can use rather to emphasise verbs. We use it most commonly with verbs such as enjoy, hope, like:

I was rather hoping you’d forgotten about that.

He rather liked the idea of a well-paid job in Japan.


Rather: comparison

We use rather with more and less + an adjective or adverb in formal writing to make a comparison with something:

Quite probably you simply didn’t realise that peas and beans and sweet-corn are such valuable vegetables, and you will now continue to eat them rather more frequently because you like them anyway.

Now that she saw Rupert again, he was rather less interesting and a little older than she had remembered him.
Rather like


We use rather with like to refer to similarities. We use rather like to mean ‘quite similar to’:

They were small animals, rather like rats.

I was in the middle. I felt rather like a referee at a football match trying to be fair and keep the sides apart.


Rather than: alternatives and preferences

We use rather than to give more importance to one thing when two alternatives or preferences are being compared:

He wanted to be an actor rather than a comedian.

Can we come over on Saturday rather than Friday?


Rather than usually occurs between two things which are being compared. However, we can also use it at the beginning of a sentence. When we use rather than with a verb, we use the base form or (less commonly) the -ing form of a verb:

Rather than pay the taxi fare, he walked home. (or Rather than paying the taxi fare, he walked home.)

Not: Rather than to pay …


Or rather

We use or rather to correct ourselves:

He commanded and I obeyed, or rather, I pretended to.

Thanks to his efforts, or rather the efforts of his employees, they made a decent profit.


Would rather

We use would rather or ’d rather to talk about preferring one thing to another. Would rather has two different constructions. (The subjects are underlined in the examples.)


same subject (+ base form)

I’d rather stay at home than go out tonight.

I’d rather not go out tonight.


different subject (+ past simple clause)

I’d rather you stayed at home tonight.

I’d rather you didn’t go out tonight.


In negative sentences with a different subject, the negative comes on the clause that follows, not on would rather:

She’d rather you didn’t phone after 10 o’clock.
Not: She wouldn’t rather you phoned after 10 o’clock.


Same subject

When the subject is the same person in both clauses, we use would rather (not) followed by the base form of the verb:

We’d rather go on Monday.
Not: We’d rather to go … or We’d rather going …

More than half the people questioned would rather have a shorter summer break and more holidays at other times.

I’d rather not fly. I hate planes.

When we want to refer to the past we use would rather + have + -ed form (perfect infinitive without to):

She would rather have spent the money on a holiday. (The money wasn’t spent on a holiday.)

I’d rather have seen it at the cinema than on DVD. (I saw the film on DVD.)


Different subjects

When the subjects of the two clauses are different, we often use the past simple to talk about the present or future, and the past perfect to talk about the past:

I would rather they did something about it instead of just talking about it. (past simple to talk about the present or future).

Would you rather I wasn’t honest with you? (past simple to talk about the present or future)
Not: Would you rather I’m not honest with you? or … I won’t be honest with you?

I’d rather you hadn’t rung me at work. (past perfect to talk about the past)


Much rather

We can use much with would rather to make the preference stronger. In speaking, we stress much:

I’d much rather make a phone call than send an email.

She’d much rather they didn’t know about what had happened.


Short responses: I’d rather not

We often use I’d rather not as a short response to say no to a suggestion or request:

A: Do you want to go for a coffee?
B: I’d rather not, if you don’t mind.