UNIT 57. Prefer and would rather

Australia-20 grammar


Prefer to do and prefer doing

You can use prefer to (do) or prefer -ing to say what you prefer in general:
– I don’t like cities. I prefer to live in the country. or I prefer living in the country.

Study the differences in structure after prefer. We say:

I prefer something to something else.
I prefer doing something to doing something else.
I prefer to do something rather than (do) something else.

  • I prefer this coat to the coat you were wearing yesterday.
  • I prefer driving to traveling by train.

– I prefer to drive rather than travel by train.
– Ann prefer to live in the country rather than in a city. or …rather than live in a city


Would prefer (I’d prefer …)

We use would prefer to say what somebody wants in a specific situation (not in general):
– “Would you prefer tea or coffee?” “Coffee, please.”

We say “would prefer to do” (not doing):
– “Should we take the train?” “No, I’d prefer to drive.” (not I’d prefer driving)
– I’d prefer to stay at home tonight rather than go to the movies.


Would rather (I’d rather …)

Would rather (do) = would prefer (to do). We use would rather + base form (do/have/stay, etc.).

– “Should we take the train?”
– “I’d prefer to drive.”
– “I’d rather drive.” (not to drive)
– “Would you rather have tea or coffee?” “Coffee, please.”

The negative is I’d rather not (do something):
– I’m tired. I’d rather not go out tonight, if you don’t mind.
– “Do you want to go out tonight?” “I’d rather not.”

We say “would rather do something than do something else”:
– I’d rather stay at home tonight than go to the movies.


I’d rather you did something

We say “I’d rather you did something” (not I’d rather you do.) For example:
– “I’ll fix your car tomorrow, OK?” “I’d rather you did it today.” (= I’d prefer this)
– “Is it OK if Ben stays here?” “I’d rather he came with us.” (not he comes)
– Shall I tell them, or would you rather they didn’t know? (not don’t know)

In this structure, we use the past (did/came, etc.), but the meaning is not past.

– I’d rather make dinner now.
but I’d rather you made dinner now. (not I’d rather you make)

I’d rather you didn’t (do something) = I’d prefer that you not do it:
– I’d rather you didn’t tell anyone what I said.
– “Should I tell Stephanie?” “I’d rather you didn’t”