Expressing preference

We use prefer to say we like one thing or activity more than another. We can use a prepositional phrase with to when we compare two things or actions:

prefer tea to coffee.

We prefer going by ferry to flying.

We don’t use than after prefer:

She prefers books to magazines.

Not: She prefers books than magazines.

We can use a to-infinitive or an -ing form after prefer. A to-infinitive is more common.

She’s not keen on coffee. She prefers to drink tea. (or She prefers drinking tea to coffee.)

Would prefer

We use would prefer or ’d prefer, followed by a to-infinitive or a noun, to talk about present and future preferences:

I’d prefer to go by myself.

Would you prefer a quieter restaurant?

She’d prefer not to drive at night.

When we want to say that we would like to do one thing more than another, we can introduce the second thing with rather than, followed by an infinitive without to:

I’d prefer to go skiing this year rather than go on a beach holiday.

When we are talking about our preferences for the actions of another person, we can use would prefer + object pronoun + to-infinitive or would prefer it if + past simple:

They’d prefer us to come later. (or They’d prefer it if we came later.)

Would you prefer me to drive? (or Would you prefer it if I drove?)

Typical errors

  • We use a to-infinitive after prefer, not an infinitive without to:

prefer to drive.

Not: I prefer drive.

Whenever I have time I like to read but I prefer not to read in the evening.

Not: … but I prefer not read in the evening.

  • We make comparisons using to or rather than, not just than:

A lot of young people prefer computer games to football. (or A lot of young people prefer computer games rather than football.)

Not: A lot of young people prefer computer games than football.

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