Spanish expressions: “En vez de…”, “en lugar de…”

spanish expressions en vez de 1

“En vez de” and “en lugar de” are two Spanish phrases pretty useful when it comes to expressing alternatives. They are both equivalent to “instead of”, but, sometimes, we can use them as a substitute for “rather than”.

They have different uses and, since they are pretty similar, most Spanish learners struggle to understand how to use them.

If you want to improve your Spanish skills and add these two useful phrases, keep reading this explanation.

Here, you’ll learn how to properly use “en vez de” and “en lugar de”. Also, you’ll learn how to give advice, and make suggestions using these Spanish structures.

How to use “en vez de”

Using the Spanish phrase “en vez de” isn’t difficult. However, there are a few things you must keep in mind.

First, we use it to talk about alternatives or, in fact, substitutions. So, there should be two suggestions or “actions” in the same sentence.

Generally, we use the following formula:

Sentence 1/Alternative 1 + “en vez de” + Sentence 2/Alternative 2 + complement.

Sentence 1 expresses an activity that should have been carried out by the subject. Then, “en vez de” plays the role of comparison and substitution.

Therefore, listeners will get the idea that the subject should have done what’s expressed in sentence 1 instead of sentence 2.

Let’s see a few examples to get a clearer picture:

Rafael tenía que ir al supermercado en vez de a la farmacia.

Rafael had to go to the supermarket instead of the pharmacy.

En vez de mal gastar tu tiempo, creo que deberías aprovecharlo.

Instead of wasting your time, I think you should use it.

¿Por qué no me ayudas en vez de quedarte ahí mirando?

Why don’t you help me instead of standing there watching?

As you may see, in the first example, Rafael should have gone to the supermarket but he went to the drugstore. We can also start a sentence by using “en vez de”, as we did in the second example.

However, we should use a comma and the formula would look like the one below:

“En vez de” + sentence 2/alternative 2 + comma + sentence 1/alternative 1

Please note that “sentence 2/alternative 2” will always go after “en vez de” and expresses what the subject actually did or chose. On the flip side, “sentence 1/alternative 1” always expresses what the subject should have done or chosen.

During daily conversations, native speakers often use “en vez de” to make “why questions” as you can see in the third example shown above.

Deber + “en vez de”

The structure (“deber” + “en vez de”) helps us give advice and make suggestions. If you use a verb right after “deber”, it usually goes in the infinitive form.

To give advice, we would use “deber” as “debería” which is the conditional form of “deber”. On the other hand, if you want to make a suggestion, you can combine (“creo que” + “deber” + “en vez de”).

Let’s see some examples:

Creemos que deberías de practicar un poco mas en vez de estar ahí sin hacer nada.

We think you should practice a little more instead of sitting there doing nothing.

Carla debería sonreir más en vez de quejarse tanto.

Carla should smile more instead of complaining so much

Debo aprender español en vez de italiano. Tengo muchos amigos latinos e hispanos.

I must learn Spanish instead of Italian. I have many Latino and Hispanic friends.

How to use “en lugar de”

“En lugar de” is a Spanish phrase we could use as an equivalent to “instead of”. However, its direct translation would be in place of”.

The formula we will follow with “en lugar de” is similar to the ones we have shown previously. Sometimes, it can be an alternative to “rather than”. As a result, it may even help you to talk about your preferences.

Let’s see a few examples to understand how we should use “en lugar de”:

¿Por qué no nos echas una mano en lugar de quejarte tanto?

Why don’t you give us a hand instead of complaining so much?

Alguien tendrá que ir al almuerzo de trabajo con los japoneses en lugar de María

Someone will have to go to the working lunch with the Japanese instead of María

Lucía no va a llegar a tiempo. Iré yo en lugar de ella.

Lucía will not arrive on time. I’ll go instead of her.

El Real Madrid tenía que encontrar alguien que pudiera jugar en lugar de Zidane

Real Madrid had to find someone who could play in Zidane’s stead

Please note that we can use “en lugar de” in independent classes just like in example 3.

Additionally, when we want to say that someone “should have done something” instead of someone else, we should use “en lugar de”. It’s because most native speakers use that alternative as it’s easier to understand who’s carrying out the action.

“Deber” + “en lugar de”

In this context, we will also use “deber” as “debería” to make suggestions or give advice.

Keep in mind that’s fundamental to be polite. Since “en lugar de” is the best alternative to make substitutions when we talk about people, you should try to use it.  In this case, the verb following “deber” should also be in the infinitive form.

Here are some other examples:

Deberías viajar a Italia en lugar de Francia. La comida es muy rica.

You should travel to Italy instead of France. The food is delicious.

Deberíamos ver Spiderman en lugar de The notebook. Me gustan más las películas de superheroes.

We should see Spiderman instead of The notebook. I like superhero movies better.

En lugar de tenis, debería de practicar voleibol, pero no. Amo el tenis.

Instead of tennis, I should practice volleyball, but no. I love tennis.

Spanish important expressions

Generally speaking, “en vez de” and “en lugar de” are pretty similar Spanish phrases. Nonetheless, we can use “en lugar de” as an equivalent of instead of, rather than, or in place of.

On a side, “en vez de” is just equivalent to “instead of”.

Remember that we can use them together with “deber” and they both are helpful when it comes to giving advice or making suggestions.

You only have to conjugate verbs properly and use a comma if necessary.

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