“But rather” is an interesting construct that appears in some sentences. It would help to know how “but rather” works and when it’s best to use it. This article will explain everything you need to know about getting “but rather” correct.
Is It Correct to Say “But Rather”?
“But rather” is correct. It is used to replace a semi-colon or new sentence, where “but rather” offers a new idea that suggests something that the writer would rather do. It’s possible to use “but” or “rather” on their own, but “but rather” introduces a new alternative.
To help put this into words, you can refer to the following sentences:
- I did not want to walk but run.
- I did not want to walk; I would rather run.
- I did not want to walk but rather run.
While these sentences might seem simplistic, they demonstrate the key differences between “but,” “rather,” and “but rather.”
“Rather” only works when it comes after a semi-colon or is introduced in a new sentence. “But” works as a conjunction, but it doesn’t always make sense when demonstrating preferences.
“But rather” allows you to share your preference as part of the main clause without having to include extra information or punctuation.
What Does “But Rather” Mean?
“But rather” is a connective phrase used to introduce a preference. It means that you would “rather” have something over another thing or have had to settle with one thing because another is not available.
Take the following sentence as an example:
- I had to take the fish but rather the sausages.
Here, the implication is that you were given “fish.” However, your preference lies with “sausages.” You might have been forced to take the fish because whoever you were taking the food from had run out of sausages.
The idea is that “but rather” introduces a forced preference that you did not plan for.
How to Use “But Rather” in a Sentence
It’s a good idea to get used to “but rather” in all its forms. You should read through some of these examples to see how to use “but rather” in a sentence:
- I would like to do something better, but rather than worry about them; I think it’s best if we focus on the past.
- I didn’t do this because I wanted to, but rather because I knew that I had to. I’m sorry if that made things difficult.
- She did not talk about it much but rather decided to keep it in. I’m not sure why she didn’t seem to trust anyone else.
- We could have told you that, but rather than hear it from us; it would have made more sense to get it from the source.
- We knew you didn’t need to hear it, but rather than pester you; we figured it was best to let you sort it out yourself.
You can use “but rather” in many contexts when introducing preferences or things you would “rather” do. “But” introduces the opposite thing that you would “rather” do.
It’s also common to use phrases like “but rather than” when making a suggestion that might have been better.
Comma With “But Rather”
Punctuation rules are always complicated. There seem to be different rules for different constructs, so you might want to learn how “but rather” works.
You should only place a comma in “but rather” when you want to emphasize “rather” and include it as an interrupter. For the most part, “but rather” needs no punctuation.
Here’s an example to show you how it looks:
- I thought about telling them but rather decided against doing it.
- I thought about telling them but, rather, decided against doing it.
These two sentences are identical in wording. However, the second example includes more emphasis on “rather.” This should be used when you want to make “rather” stand out from the sentence.
The commas allow “rather” to be a parenthetical element. It could be removed from the sentence, and it would still make sense:
- I thought about telling them but decided against doing it.
The idea is to encourage the reader to pause before and after “rather” to show your preference. This allows for them to include more emphasis.
Can You Start a Sentence With “But Rather”?
It is possible to start a sentence with “but rather” in some circumstances. If “but rather” is part of the introductory or dependent clause in a sentence, you can place it at the start of the sentence.
It should always link to the previous sentence when used in this way. For example:
- I tried my best. But rather than doing things my way, I figured it would work better if we listened to him.
- You could have done this yourself. But rather than trying, you decided to let her do most of the work.
- I’m not sure what to say. But rather than giving up, I managed to come up with a solution.
To check whether it’s a dependent clause, you can flip the sentence around to see if it still makes sense:
- But rather than doing things my way, I figured it would work better if we listened to him.
- I figured it would work better if we listened to him rather than doing things my way.
As you can see, the sentence can be flipped, but “but” must be removed in the flipped form.
Is “But Rather” an Adverb?
“But rather” isn’t a true adverb. “But” is a conjunction, and “rather” is an adverb. When they combine, they can be used as a conjunctive adverb, but most people consider them as both a conjunction and an adverb.
You can use “but rather” to connect a sentence similarly to other conjunctive adverbs. That’s why most people would consider “but rather” to operate in the same way as any other adverb.
But Rather – Synonyms
It would help to go over some synonyms for “but rather.” If you’re not comfortable using it in your writing, perhaps one of the following will be better suited to you.
- By choice
- By contrast
Martin holds a Master’s degree in Finance and International Business. He has six years of experience in professional communication with clients, executives, and colleagues. Furthermore, he has teaching experience from Aarhus University. Martin has been featured as an expert in communication and teaching on Forbes and Shopify. Read more about Martin here.