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For example, how would I say, 'instead of x, we should do y'? I find it hard to balance the sentence correctly in chinese.

Do I need to use, 反而 or 而且? Or is there some better method?

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up vote 4 down vote accepted

反而 is mostly used when something is contrary to expectations. An example: Suppose it is predicted that there would be no wind, but there is a lot of wind, and after a while it starts to blow even harder you can say:

    the wind not only hasn't stopped, but blowing harder and harder

而且 is used to give some extra information and is typically translated as "*and also; besides; and what's more; but also".

You can use "而不是". For example:

    What we need are people with great capabilities, instead of those who live off others. 

You can also use 与其..., 不如... which is translated as rather than ... , you'd better .... An example: 与其少买,不如不买 I'd rather not buy anything at all than buy just a few.

Often Chinese wouldn't use a conjunction at all. For example (these 2 examples come from Nciku)

    Chinese people prefer to use chopsticks instead of a knife and fork.    

    I want to play instead of spend the rest of the match on this bench.
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So its sound better to use 而不是 and reverse the positions of x and y. In english it doesn't matter where x and y appear as 'instead' can start a sentence or end with it. In chinese it has to balance with 而不是 in the 2nd clause. – jaffa Apr 29 '12 at 15:26

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