The Meaning of “Instead of” and How to Use It

Many students in the academy and readers of the blog often ask me about the meaning of instead of and how to use it. It’s not surprising, as at first glance there aren’t any expressions in Spanish that sound or even look similar. However, this expression starts becoming more and more common at intermediate levels like B1.  For this reason, although I already recorded a video where I mentioned how to use instead of, in this post I’m going to explain the meaning of instead of and how to use it in a sentence. 

Instead Of

What’s the translation of instead of?

The translation of instead of into Spanish is en vez de. It’s actuallly that simple. In any sentence that you read instead of, you will be able to translate it as en vez de. Let’s take a look at an example:

🇬🇧 I want some apple juice instead of a coke. 

🇪🇸 Quiero zumo de manzana en vez de una coca-cola. 

Synonyms of instead of 

If you ever want to use a synonym of instead of, it is common to make use of expressions like in place of or rather than. Let’s see an example so you can see what I mean:

You should eat vegetables instead of so much meat.

You should eat vegetables rather than so much meat. 

You should eat vegetables in place of so much meat.

These 3 sentences mean exactly the same, though in my opinion the first two sound a lot more natural than the third.

How to use instead of in a sentence

Instead of is what we know as a prepositional phrase, in Spanish a frase preposicional. For this reason, after instead of there always needs to follow a noun or equivalent (gerund, noun phrase, pronoun, etc.). Therefore, after instead of you will never see a verb in the infinitive, with or without to. Let’s see some examples of how to use instead of in different sentences and pay attention to what follows this common expression.

I’ll buy an iPhone instead of a Samsung phone. (instead of + noun)

Luke’s going to stay at home instead of going out. (instead of + gerund)

I think it’s better if I tell him in person instead of you calling him. (instead of + gerund phrase)

How to use instead on its own

Despite the fact that the most common way to see instead is within the phrase instead of, this word may also appear without the preposition ofInstead is actually an adverb, which means the same as instead of, but is obviously used in a different way, given it’s a different word class. So here’s how to use instead:

Instead at the end of a clause

At first, I thought about ordering water, but in the end I ordered beer instead

Instead at the beginning of a clause

In the end, he didn’t write a novel. Instead, he came up with a series of short stories. 

Instead in the middle of a clause

She never got married, preferring instead to remain single.

And that’s how we use instead of and instead. That simple. Did you know instead of and how to use it? Do you still have problems to understand what it means or its different uses? If so, simply write a comment below with your question and I’ll get back to you ASAP. And if you’re looking for an English language teacher in Granada, simply get in touch with me!

Picture of Luis @ KSE Academy

Luis @ KSE Academy

Luis Porras Wadley is the owner and director of KSE Academy, an English academy and official Cambridge Exam Preparation Centre based in Granada. As an English teacher, Luis has been preparing Cambridge candidates successfully for more than ten years. He is the author of some successful test preparation books, including Speaking First, Speaking CAE, Speaking CPE, Use of English C1 and The Ultimate B2 First Writing Guide.

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