Someone has written

  • I would like to be a human being rather than being a feminist.

Is it correct grammatically to use 'being' here after 'than'?

What is the grammar behind it?

  • 1
    Using two different senses / polysemes so close together is often better avoided on stylistic grounds. But here, there is an additional problem: parallelism encourages 'I would like to be a human being rather than to be a feminist' which would almost always be reduced to 'I would like to be a human being rather than a feminist'. Aug 7, 2021 at 10:49
  • The two words are confusing only in print; they're pronounced differently, like most confusingly-spelled words. The phrase human being, with the noun being, is stressed on BEing, whereas when being is used as an auxiliary verb it's unstressed, so it'd be being a FEMinist. Nobody would confuse them in real language, only written language. Aug 7, 2021 at 15:39
  • There is certainly nothing wrong with using 'being' after 'than'. One could for example say 'I am happier married than being single'. But in the sentence you quote I find it quite unnecessary to include either the present participle or the infinitive. Why not - I would like to be a human being rather than a feminist.
    – WS2
    Aug 7, 2021 at 20:33
  • @EdwinAshworth unless you're Groucho Marx.
    – phoog
    Aug 8, 2021 at 1:55
  • @WS2 Your example is a reduced form of 'I am happier being married than being single'. Unlike OP's example, it is properly coordinated. Aug 8, 2021 at 14:26

2 Answers 2


It is correct; the syntax suffices to the purpose of making out clearly what word is meant in each case. There is not a case of what is called "repetition", such use of several times the same word being in many context not advisable. There seems to be involved no real matter of style or taste in this present matter. Of course, it can be noticed that the same form appears twice in close proximity, but there is usually not much to make of such coincidences, the important matter being first to use the words that communicate the meaning and intent of the writer/speaker as precisely as possible.

  • He has no will but will we hold a grudge against him because of that?

-Ing clauses are nominal clauses and "than" is a preposition, so the combination is proper because the complement of a preposition is often noun-like in nature.

(CoGEL 15.2) NOMINAL CLAUSES have functions that approximate to those of noun phrases: subject, object, complement, appositive, and prepositional complement.

  • The close proximity of the different usages of 'being' is the lesser problem. Aug 7, 2021 at 10:56

I’m no grammarian, but common sense screams no!

My simplistic analysis of a grammatically valid sentence starting with:

I would like to be a X, rather than

is that it must continue

…a Y

Here the value of ‘X’ (human being) is irrelevant to the grammar, its only significant feature is that it takes — and indeed requires — the indirect article. However if we substitute “being a feminist” for Y, this does not work as it cannot take the indirect article required for the grammatical structure.

And if your grammar says otherwise, then it bears no relationship to the logic of the English language.

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