Prefer and would rather

Article Index
Prefer and would rather

A. 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 travelling by train.
  • I prefer to drive rather than travel by train.
  • Ann prefers to live in the country rather than (live) in a city.

B. Would prefer (I'd prefer...)

We use 'would prefer' to say what somebody wants in a particular situation (not in general):

  • 'Would you prefer tea or coffee?' 'Coffee, please.'

We say 'would prefer to do' (not 'doing'):

  • 'Shall we go by train?'  'Well, I'd prefer to go by car.' (not 'I'd prefer going')
  • I'd prefer to stay at home tonight rather than go to the cinema.

C. Would rather (I'd rather...)

Would rather (do) = would prefer (to do). After would rather we use the infinitive without to.

  • 'Shall we go by tram?'   >> 'I'd prefer to go by car.'
  • 'Shall we go by tram?'   >> I’d rather go by car. (not to go)
  • '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 this evening, if you don't mind.
  • 'Do you want to go out this evening?' 'I'd rather not.'

Study the structure after would rather:
I'd rather do something than (do) something else.

  • I'd rather stay at home tonight than go to the cinema.

D. I'd rather you did something

When you want somebody to do something, you can say 'I'd rather you did something':

  • 'Shall I stay here?'  'I'd rather you came with us.'
  • 'Shall I tell them the news?' 'No. I'd rather they didn't know.'
  • Shall I tell them or would you rather they didn't know?

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


I'd rather cook the dinner now.
I'd rather you cooked the dinner now. (not I’d rather you cook')

The negative is I’d rather you didn't...':

  • I'd rather you didn't tell anyone what I said. •
  • 'Do you mind if I smoke?' 'I'd rather you didn't.'


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