Comma Before “Rather”: Here’s The Golden Rule + 26 Examples

“Rather” is one of those words that has several different (but closely related) meanings. The rules surrounding what kind of punctuation should go before it might seem a little bit cloudy to some of you.

The purpose of this article is to make you confident about whether or not to have a comma before “rather”. And to be honest, 99% of the time, you shouldn’t.

When to put a comma before “rather”

When “rather” is an adverb, you should put a comma after it, but only when it’s a conjunctive adverb. Otherwise, don’t use a comma.

Never use a comma when “rather” is a predeterminer.

Never use a comma when “rather” indicates preference.

And never use a comma when “rather” is part of a construction.

Basically, the answer to the question is never.

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When “rather” is an adverb

In case you forgot what your English teacher told you, the job of an adverb is to add to a verb… or an adjective… or another adverb.

When used as a (non-conjunctive) adverb, the word “rather” could usually be replaced by the word “fairly”. This could serve two purposes.

You could imply scale/size (“rather important”) or indicate that something is a bad thing (“rather cross”).

But no matter how you want your “rather” to be interpreted, there is never a need to put a comma before it.

When “rather” is a conjunctive adverb

Although you should never put a comma before “rather”, there is a time to put one after it. And that is when “rather” is being used as a conjunctive adverb.

By the way, a conjunction is a word that ties two clauses in a sentence together. You might know them better as “connectives”.

When “rather” is used as a conjunction, you’re saying that the first clause talks about what isn’t/wasn’t. But the second clause talks about what is/was.

“The weather wasn’t hot. Rather, it was freezing!.

We’re saying what the weather wasn’t followed by what it was.

Examples of “rather” as an adverb

Regular Adverb

“I don’t know why, but I feel rather unwell”.

“She was rather big for her age”.

“It was rather annoying, but I don’t mind”.

“The bed was rather comfortable. I managed to sleep for 12 hours”.

“The tea was rather strong. I had to add a lot of milk to make it nice”.

Conjunctive Adverb

“The dog wasn’t small. Rather, he was a giant”.

“Cat’s aren’t vegan. Rather, they’re carnivores.”

“You shouldn’t eat apple pie. Rather, you should just eat apples”.

“Water isn’t wet. Rather, water makes things wet”.

“Doctor Who isn’t cancelled. Rather, they just couldn’t film during the pandemic”.

When “rather” is a predeterminer

You should also avoid putting a comma before the word “rather” is when it’s a predeterminer.

A determiner is something that defines ownership of a noun. Words like “his, my, her” show that it belongs to one person. “their, our” shows it belongs to several people. “A, the” show it doesn’t belong to anybody in particular.

A predeterminer goes before the determiner.

We could add a predeterminer to the phrase “his books” to make it “both his books” or “plenty of his books”.

When used as a predetermined, “rather” has a similar meaning to “fairly”. Although you couldn’t say “This is fairly a nice wine”.

Examples of “rather” as a predeterminer

“I had rather a nice walk today. I went to my local park and saw a nice dog.”

“It was rather a miserable day. It just didn’t stop raining”.

“She had rather a big dinner. She was so full, she could barely move”.

“It’s rather an annoying task. But if it has to be done, it has to be done”.

“She was rather a sweet dog. Especially when she wagged her tail”.

“New York is rather a long way from Canada”.

“Pork Pies are rather an unhealthy snack”.

When “rather” indicates preference

One of the most common usages for “rather” is to indicate a preference. We might say, “I would rather eat a cake than go for a run”.

In this usage, “rather” has a similar meaning to “prefer to”. And usually, “rather” is preceded by would- or sometimes an abbreviation, such as “I’d” or “You’d”.

Some people make the mistake of saying, “I rather eat a cake than go for a run”. But this is grammatically incorrect because “would” is the verb that is needed to support “rather”.

Remember, if you’d rather do something else, don’t add a comma!

Examples of “rather” indicating preference

“She’d rather run a mile than jump off a cliff”.

“I would rather wake up at 6 than sleep in till 12”.

“They’d rather fly than walk through walls”.

“You’d rather eat a burger than a steak?”

“We would rather you didn’t knock on our door at 11 at night”.

“I think I would rather have an appeal from the board , but if you are going to have a new procedure under 4915 , I would rather stop all cases with the examiner of interferences , and go from the examiner of interferences to the courts.”

“Alan would rather go bowling than cycling”.

When “rather” is part of a duo

Sometimes, the word “rather” is part of a word duo. For example, in phrases such as “or rather” or “rather than”.

When these kinds of phrases should up, you shouldn’t put a comma before “rather”.

Or rather

“He couldn’t, or rather wouldn’t, eat his dinner”.

A comma should go before the word before “rather”. And after the word after “rather”. But “rather” should not have a comma in front of it.

Rather than

“Rather than” is most likely going to be used at the start of the sentence. For this reason, you shouldn’t put a comma before “rather”. You also shouldn’t put one after it!

“Rather than going on a run, you could try doing sit ups”.

Conclusion

When should you put a comma before “rather”- almost never!

I probably could have just written that, but then I wouldn’t have gotten paid for writing this article.

Hopefully, now you have a better idea of where to put your commas when you use the word “rather”, and you also have a better idea of what all the different definitions of that word are.

If you would rather have spent your time doing something other than reading this, I’m afraid it’s too late to go back and change it now. But at least know, you’re armed with some knowledge that you didn’t have before.

Other Comma Rules You Might Find Interesting:

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Comma Before “Including”: Here’s The Golden Rule + 12 Examples

Comma Before “And”: Here’s The Golden Rule + 23 Examples

Comma Before “Yet”: Here’s The Golden Rule + 12 Examples

Comma Before “Where”: Here’s The Golden Rule + 7 Examples

Comma Before “Then”: Here’s The Golden Rule + 7 Examples

Comma Before “Though”: Easy Rule To Make No More Mistakes

Comma After “Thus”: Here’s The Golden Rule + 22 Examples

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