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Would rather & Would sooner

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In this lesson, we’ll learn how to talk about our preferences using the phrases would rather and would sooner. These phrases help us say what we like or want to do or what we’d like other people to do. Although their meanings are similar to the phrase would prefer, their grammar is a little different.

  • I would rather/sooner sit inside.
  • I would prefer to sit inside.

Would sooner has the same meaning as would rather, and the two can be used interchangeably; however, would rather is much more common.

Note that we often use a contraction when we use would rather/would sooner in sentences and short replies.

  • I would rather sit inside.
  • I’d rather sit inside

There are two primary constructions for would rather/would sooner, each conveying different meanings. This lesson focuses on these two structures.
 

Would rather/would sooner + infinitive

We use would rather/would sooner + infinitive to express preferences about the present or future.

  • I would rather go by taxi than drive.
  • I‘d rather stay home until I feel better.

We use would rather/would sooner with an infinitive without to.

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

To make the negative form, we use would rather/would sooner + not + infinitive.

  • I would rather not have chicken again.

We use would + subject + rather/sooner + infinitive in questions to ask about the preferences of others.

  • Would you rather go by taxi?

We can use the form ‘d rather not in short answers to questions and requests.

  • “Would you like to watch a film tonight?” “Thanks, but I‘d rather not.”

 

Would rather/would sooner + subject + past simple

We use would rather/would sooner + subject + past simple to express that we would like someone else to do something. In these structure, we use the past simple but the meaning is present or future.

  • I would rather you went home right now.
  • They‘d rather their daughter studied something different.

Note that we use this structure when the subject before and after would rather/sooner is different.

  • I‘d rather I waited here. blank
  • I‘d rather wait here. blank
  • I‘d rather we waited here. blank

When forming questions with this structure, we use would + subject + rather + subject + past simple.

  • Would you rather he came with you?
  • Would you rather I waited here?

To make the negative form, we use would rather/would sooner + subject + didn’t…

  • I’d rather you didn’t come over. blank
  • I’d rather not you came over. blank

The same is true in the case of short replies.

  • Thanks, but I’d rather you didn’t. blank
  • I’d rather not you did. blank

Note that although would rather has been used in most examples in this lesson, it could be replaced by would sooner in all the sentences.