• I can't do anything rather than waiting.
  • I can't do anything rather than wait.

Which one is correct and why?

  • 2
    "other than wait". – Ste Dec 23 '13 at 15:19
  • 1
    The verb after "rather" should follow the same form of the other verb. The verb after "rather" is "wait". And the other verb of the sentence is "do", so it will be "wait", not "waiting". If it were "doing", after "rather" it would have been "waiting". – Man_From_India Dec 23 '13 at 15:23

Idiomatically (and logically, it seems to me) neither of OP's suggestions are valid. It should be...

I can't do anything other than wait (or but/except wait)

Valid constructions using rather include, for example,...

I would/will do anything rather than wait.
?I'll do anything rather than waiting.

I've marked the second one there with ? because it doesn't sound very good to me, but I'm pretty sure at least some native speakers will find it perfectly acceptable. People have different ideas about where (the increasingly common) use of gerunds is "reasonable".

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  • Does this also apply here (from a printed book): Rather than attempt (should that be attempting?) a comprehensive treatment of these options, we’ll just use some of them in our examples. – Kedar Mhaswade Sep 14 '19 at 15:49
  • @KedarMhaswade: Well, like I said, different people will have different opinions in this area. In your exact context I can't see anyone objecting to the continuous / gerund attempting rather than infinitive attempt. But as the question mark in my example in the above answer implies, most people would always use ...rather than wait there - and at least some of them would probably say that waiting was in fact "wrong". I may be mistaken, but I think if you always use the infinitive, no-one would ever say that was actually incorrect. – FumbleFingers Sep 14 '19 at 16:05

Neither is acceptable, at least in U.S. usage. Ordinarily, other than or but and not rather than is used in sentences like these. Also, I'd prefer “can do nothing other than” or “can do nothing but” to “can't do anything other than”.

After those substitutions, the phrasing with wait is closer to grammatical correctness. Consider the following conversation, and imagine it with waiting rather than wait.

A: What will you do?
B: I will wait because I can do nothing but wait.

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