Rather is used to talk about preferences.
- Don’t come today. I would rather you came tomorrow. (= I would prefer you to come tomorrow.)
After would rather we usually use a past tense with present or future meaning.
- ‘Would you like something to drink?’ ‘I would rather have something to eat.’ (= I would prefer to have something to eat.)
Rather can mean ‘more precisely’.
- He arrived late last night, or rather, in the early hours this morning.
- He ran, or rather staggered, to the finishing line.
This expression is mostly used in parallel structures. That means we use it with two adjectives, adverbs, nouns, infinitives or –ing forms.
- I would rather spend my time traveling than working.
- We ought to invest in education rather than defense.
When the main clause has a to-infinitive, rather than is usually followed by an infinitive without to. An –ing form is also possible.
- I decided to wait rather than leave. OR I decided to wait rather than leaving.
- He must learn to shoulder responsibility rather than leave everything to fate. (OR … rather than leaving everything to fate.)
Rather can mean ‘indeed so’ in short answers.
- ‘Are you comfortable?’ ‘Yes, rather!’
Rather as a degree modifier
Rather can suggest ideas such as ‘more than is usual’, ‘more than was expected’ or ‘more than was wanted’.
- Do you see that rather tall boy standing over there?
- She speaks English rather well. (= She speaks English remarkably well.)