I have never seen a construction beginning with 'Sooner than' as the following one:

Sooner than fix the broken screen, l would buy a new mobile phone.

I looked it up in a number of dictionaries but i didn't find its meaning. I guess that it means ' instead of', doesn't it?

  • 1
    "Rather than" came to my mind. Using "sooner" here doesn't sound idiomatic to me, but I don't know why. – TaliesinMerlin May 22 '19 at 20:22
  • "Sooner than" in this sense means "In preference to". The logic behind it, such as it is, is that the preferred action would be chosen first. In the example case the speaker would try to buy a new phone before he would try to fix the broken one and only try to fix the broken one if he was unable to buy a new one. The opposite preference might be a better example as, given enough money and plenty of phone dealers in an area, buying a new one is simpler than mending an old one. – BoldBen May 22 '19 at 22:51

'Sooner' can be used when discussing preference. This usage is chiefly British.

Collins Dictionary:

2. rather; in preference
I'd sooner die than give up


The preference can be reversed from the above: sooner than give up, I'd choose to die.

  • The example seems significantly different than using "sooner than" in the example above. Compare: "I would sooner buy a new mobile phone than fix the broken screen" / "Sooner than fix the broken screen, I would buy a new mobile phone." Your example explains the former syntax, but not the latter. – TaliesinMerlin May 22 '19 at 20:25
  • @TaliesinMerlin & Michael Harvery: I think 'instead of' is close to 'rather than' in meaning. Anyway l'm grateful for your comment and answer. – Mido Mido May 22 '19 at 21:06

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