Would Rather & Prefer Grammar

Rather & Prefer

 In this post we will look at the different grammar of would rather and prefer and the way we use each of them. They are quite similar to each other and we can use both of them for the same type of idea.

Grammar of would rather and prefer


Would rather has the same meaning as would prefer but the grammar for each is different.

Look at these examples.

  • Would you like to go out for dinner tonight? 
  • No, I think I’d rather eat at home / I’d prefer to eat at home.

Would rather is used with what we call a bare infinitive or a verb without “to”.

Would prefer is followed by an infinitive.

There is no difference in meaning between these two example sentences.

Short Answers

This is how we use prefer and rather in short answers.


  • I prefer (not) to
  • I would prefer (not) to


  • I’d rather not
  • I’d rather you did/didn’t (Other people)


Would rather is used to talk a specific choice but we can use prefer to give a more general opinion about preferences.   

Look at these examples.

  • I’d rather listen to music than watch TV.

  • I prefer listening to music to watching TV.

Our first example uses would rather followed by a bare infinitive. 
When we compare different things with rather we use than.

Our second example describes what we prefer in general and it is followed by the -ing form.
When we compare different things with prefer we use to.

Comparing with Rather

As we have seen rather and prefer have the same meaning. We can also use rather with than to mean instead of.

When we use rather than with a verb, we use the bare infinitive form or (less commonly) the -ing form of a verb.

Look at these examples.

  • Rather than pay/paying the taxi fare, he walked to work.

  • I’d prefer to stay home rather than go out.

Rather can be used in the same sentence as prefer but only like this.

We don’t say this.

I’d rather prefer to stay here.

Talking about other people with rather

When we include two different subjects we often use a past simple form to talk about the present or future.

Look at these sentences.

  • I’d rather we stayed home tonight. 

  • I’d rather you didn’t smoke in the bedroom.

We do this when we talk about what we want someone else to do.

NOTE: In our first example we includes another person( you and I).

Rather & Prefer

Test your understanding of how we use rather and prefer.

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