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Kai Parker
Kai Parker

Expressing Preferences with Prefer and Would Rather: Grammar Rules and Examples


Would Rather vs Would Prefer: How to Express Your Preferences in English




Do you know how to say what you like or want more than something else in English? There are two common phrases that you can use to express your preferences: would rather and would prefer. But do you know the difference between them and how to use them correctly? In this article, we will explain the meaning, grammar, and usage of these two phrases with examples and tips. By the end of this article, you will be able to use them confidently and accurately in your own sentences.




would rather would prefer


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Introduction




Would rather and would prefer are both used to show a preference of one thing over another thing. They have a similar meaning, but they are not exactly the same. They have different grammatical structures and different ways of expressing specific or general preferences. Let's look at the main difference between them first.


What is the difference between would rather and would prefer?




The main difference between would rather and would prefer is that would rather is an adverb, while would prefer is a verb. This means that they need different forms of verbs after them to complete the sentence. Here is a simple rule to remember:


  • Would rather is followed by the base form of verb without to.



  • Would prefer is followed by to + infinitive or a noun.



For example:


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  • I would rather stay at home than go out. (base form of verb without to)



  • I would prefer to stay at home or I would prefer a quiet night. (to + infinitive or noun)



Another difference between them is that would rather can be contracted to 'd rather, while would prefer can be contracted to 'd prefer. For example:


  • I'd rather watch a movie than read a book.



  • I'd prefer to watch a movie or I'd prefer a movie.



How to use would rather and would prefer in sentences




Specific preferences




When we talk about specific preferences, we mean preferences that refer to a particular situation or time. For example, what we want to do today, or what we want for dinner. In this case, we can use either would rather or would prefer with the same meaning. They are interchangeable. For example:


  • We went to the park yesterday. Today I would rather go to the zoo.



  • We went to the park yesterday. Today I would prefer to go to the zoo or I would prefer a zoo visit.



We can also use than or instead of/rather than after these phrases to show the alternative option. For example:


  • I would rather drink tea than coffee.



  • I would prefer to drink tea instead of/rather than coffee or I would prefer tea instead of/rather than coffee.



General preferences




When we talk about general preferences, we mean preferences that are not related to a specific situation or time. For example, what we like or enjoy in general, or what our habits are. In this case, we can use either prefer or would rather with the same meaning. They are interchangeable. For example:


  • I prefer walking to cycling.



  • I would rather walk than cycle.



We can also use the present simple tense after prefer to talk about general preferences. For example:


  • I prefer reading books to watching TV.



  • I prefer to read books or I prefer books.



Past preferences




When we talk about past preferences, we mean preferences that refer to a past situation or time. For example, what we wanted to do yesterday, or what we wanted for lunch. In this case, we can use either would rather or would prefer with the past perfect tense to show the unreal past. For example:


  • I would rather you had told me the truth.



  • I would prefer to have told you the truth or I would prefer telling you the truth.



We can also use than or instead of/rather than after these phrases to show the alternative option. For example:


  • I would rather have stayed at home than gone out.



  • I would prefer to have stayed at home instead of/rather than going out or I would prefer staying at home instead of/rather than going out.



Negative preferences




When we want to express a negative preference, we can use either not or rather not after would rather or would prefer. For example:


  • I would rather not go to the party.



  • I would prefer not to go to the party or I would prefer no party.



We can also use than or instead of/rather than after these phrases to show the alternative option. For example:


  • I would rather not eat meat than vegetables.



  • I would prefer not to eat meat instead of/rather than vegetables or I would prefer vegetables instead of/rather than meat.



Conditional preferences




When we want to express a conditional preference, we can use either if or a modal verb (such as could, might, or should) after would rather or would prefer. For example:


  • I would rather you didn't smoke. (if clause implied)



  • I would prefer if you didn't smoke.



  • I would rather you could help me. (modal verb)



  • I would prefer if you could help me.



How to use rather than, instead of, and prefer to in sentences




Sometimes, we want to express our preferences without using would rather or would prefer. In this case, we can use other phrases such as rather than, instead of, and prefer to. Here is how they work:



  • Rather than is followed by the base form of verb without to or a noun.



  • Instead of is followed by a gerund (-ing form of verb) or a noun.



  • Prefer to is followed by the base form of verb without to.




For example:



  • I like coffee rather than tea. (base form of verb without to)



  • I like coffee instead of tea. (noun)



  • I prefer to drink coffee. (base form of verb without to)



  • I like reading rather than watching TV. (base form of verb without to)



  • I like reading instead of watching TV. (gerund)



  • I prefer to read books. (base form of verb without to)




How to use 'd rather and 'd prefer in sentences




We can also use 'd rather and 'd prefer as short forms of I'd rather and I'd prefer when we talk about our own preferences. They are more informal and common in spoken English. For example:



  • 'd rather stay at home tonight.



  • 'd prefer to stay at home tonight or 'd prefer a quiet night.



  • 'd rather not work on weekends.



  • 'd prefer not to work on weekends or 'd prefer no work on weekends.




How to use would rather and would prefer in questions




We can also use would rather and would prefer in questions when we want to ask about someone else's preferences. In this case, we can use either of them with the same meaning. They are interchangeable. For example:



  • Would you rather travel by plane or by train?



  • Would you prefer to travel by plane or by train or would you prefer a plane trip or a train ride?



  • What would you rather do on your birthday?



What would yo


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