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Au lieu de

French expressions analyzed and explained


Je vais écrire au lieu de téléphoner.
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Expression: Au lieu de

Pronunciation: [oh lyeu deu]

Meaning: instead of

Literal translation: in the place of

Register: normal

Notes: The French expression au lieu de can be translated by "instead of" or "rather than," not to mention the French-English blend "in lieu of." However, note the difference in pronunciation: in French, lieu is pronounced [lyeu] (click the sound file above), whereas in American English it's pronounced [loo].

Au lieu de can be used in front of an infinitive, a noun, or a demonstrative pronoun:

   Je vais écrire une lettre au lieu de leur téléphoner.
   I'm going to write a letter rather than calling them.

   Viens m'aider au lieu de rester là à ne rien faire !
   Come help me instead of just sitting there!

When it precedes a subordinate clause, the expression becomes au lieu que (and requires the subjunctive). However, this usage is somewhat archaic; if at all possible, you should reword the sentence to use au lieu de + infinitive.    Au lieu que tout le monde prenne sa voiture, allons-y ensemble.
   Instead of everyone taking his or her own car, let's all go together.

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