Is the following sentence valid?

They did this in stead of that.

What is the correct usage of the phrase instead of?

  • 1
    It's technically legit (unless you insist that it needs to be "the stead"), though fairly odd. If I saw it in ordinary text (not historic, and not poetic) I would assume it was a typo.
    – Hot Licks
    Feb 15, 2015 at 13:40
  • The word stead is synonymous with place or location.
    – Clearer
    Feb 15, 2015 at 19:01

5 Answers 5


Stead as a noun exists, but is archaic. If you want to use it, it needs a specifier: his stead as in WS2's answer, or the stead. So you can say in the stead of; but instead of is much more common.


Instead is usually written as one word. It does not mean however that in and stead, cannot be separated in some circumstances e.g.:

My father is too ill to go to the meeting so I shall go in his stead.


Stead comes from the Germanic root for "place, town," but we usually use it for a person's place, and most frequently when someone is serving as a substitute.

If you serve in someone's stead, you're doing their job for them while they're not there.

  • “can you go in my stead?”

The adverb instead can also mean rather than, and in this context it's usually followed by "of." (TFD)

  • She wore a dress instead of slacks.

Legalese accepts the phrase, 'in place and in stead of'. Usage of 'instead'- Today I decided to try tea instead of my usual coffee. Explanation- Use 'instead' if you mean 'something other than'. Usage of 'in stead'- My dad was ill so I went to the meeting in his stead. Explanation- Use 'in stead' if you mean 'standing in for'.

  • 1
    You should edit your comment into the answer. That would make a much better answer as comments are liable to be deleted.
    – Chenmunka
    Mar 26, 2018 at 10:39
  • as @Chenmunka comments, include citations in answers too please.
    – lbf
    Mar 26, 2018 at 11:28

Yes, "in stead" is never correct. "instead" is separable in some circumstances, but when the two parts are separated they have to be separated by something. So "in stead" would close right up again if it ever momentarily existed, notionally like a virtual electron-positron pair.

If you are dead set on separating the two parts with something, you can do it when the result is shorter and/or more elegant than the alternative. "in his stead" is shorter than "instead of him", for example! Also way less clumsy, so satisfies the elegant minimum energy theory of valid grammar constructs.

  • 8
    Do you have a source for "in stead" being incorrect and not just archaic? Feb 15, 2015 at 16:52

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