Explanations » B1+ Grammar Explanations » Would rather, would prefer

Would rather, would prefer – Grammar chart

would rather, would prefer – expressing preference

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Would rather/would sooner

Would rather/sooner + infinitive … (than)

We use would rather/sooner + infinitive (without to) to talk about preference. We can use it with than (+noun/infinitive) in affirmative sentences or with or in questions.

  • I‘d rather/sooner have tea, please. 
  • I‘d rather/sooner have tea than drink that coffee. 
  • Would you rather/sooner have tea or coffee?

Would rather/sooner + subject + past simple

We can use would rather/sooner + subject + past simple to refer to the present or future.

  • We‘d rather/sooner she was/were with us now.*
  • She‘d rather/sooner I picked her up after lunch. 
  • Would you rather/sooner we went by bus or by train?

Note that we can use were instead of was with I/he/she after would rather + subject.


(Would) prefer + to + infinitive … (rather than/instead of)

We use prefer/would prefer + noun or to + infinitive to talk about specific preference, i.e. what we prefer on a specific occasion.

  • I would prefer to stay in a hotel near the airport. (or I would rather stay…)
  • Most clients prefer to have breakfast in their bedroom. 

We can use prefer/would prefer with rather than or instead of to show the choices we have.

  • I would prefer to be too early rather than be too late. 
  • prefer to go with dad instead of staying here with mum. 

Note that we use rather than + infinitive without to

Prefer + -ing verb

We use prefer + noun or -ing verb to talk about general preference, i.e. what we prefer in general, on every occasion.

  • I love running, but he prefers cycling

We can use prefer with to to show the choices we have. The word to is a preposition here, so if we use a verb after to, it should take the -ing form.

  • He prefers walking to cycling