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I saw this sentence (emphasis mine) and it made sense to me:

Parfois, quand on est devant une difficulté, on choisit de mentir plutôt que de dire la vérité.

In this case, de is there because it has to match up with on choisit in both clauses - "we choose to lie rather than to tell the truth."

But then I saw this sentence and it didn't make so much sense:

Dans ma région, il y a un village de fous, et plutôt que de les retrouver, je préfère n'importe quelle campagne.

Why can't this just be plutôt que les retrouver? Is de always needed when following plutôt que and similar que phrases with an infinitive verb?

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  • The last example feels somewhat elliptical to me. But in any case, the de remains necessary. Not able to articulate why. But I think it's either necessary or preferred in comparisons in general. Écouter c'est mieux que de parler sans cesse. Il est aussi sage de prier que de pleurer. Ne jamais avoir aimé, c'est pire que d'avoir aimé et perdu. Unless my intuition is wrong on those ones.
    – Luke Sawczak
    Nov 1, 2023 at 4:19

2 Answers 2

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It is not "needed", just optional.

Le bon usage (§923, 10e éditon) :

La préposition de est facultative devant l'infinitif employé comme second terme de comparaison après les locutions autant vaut... que, il vaut mieux... que, mieux vaut... que, préférer...(plutôt)... que, autant... que, et autres semblables.

Suivent de nombreux exemples extraits de la littérature. En voici deux avec plutôt ...que

  • Plutôt mourir que d'y renoncer. (M. Aymé, Les contes du chat perché)
  • Plutôt que répéter sans cesse à l'enfant que le feu brûle... (André Gide, Les faux-monnayeurs)

La BDL dit la même chose :

Le subordonnant que est parfois employé pour établir une comparaison entre deux éléments, dans des formulations comme autant... que, il vaut mieux... que, préférer... plutôt que, etc. S’il précède un verbe à l’infinitif, que peut alors être suivi de la préposition de. Toutefois, celle-ci est facultative.

Et donne aussi des exemples.

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Sorry for the answer which should have been a comment, but I do not have enough points for a comment.

I think that from a usage point of view, the second sentence sounds better with "de". The answer to this is probably to be found in the numerous words which do not appear in the sentence, and are just omitted to avoid repetition and complication. There is probably a verb, or even a clause, which should be there before the "de" but has been omitted for style.

ADDENDUM

Looking at the question again, I can see that the two sentences posting by the OP are not quite grammatically identical: In the first one, "mentir" and "dire" are clearly equally complementing "choisit", itself demanding "de". The sentence will not work well with "plutôt que dire...". In the second sentence, the first clause (which is inverted and through me at first) not only does not have an infinitive, which breaks the symmetry, but also has the verb "préfère" which somehow gives the choice of adding "de" or not.

I am wondering if, originally, there was a special rule/usage of "plutôt que" which allowed to be followed by "de" or not, depending on the verb of the first clause and whether the choice revealed by "plutôt" contained infinitives or not. Can anyone versed in old French answer this?

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