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.|
|But 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 traveling by train.
I prefer to drive rather than travel by train.
Ann prefers to live in the country rather than in a city. Or … rather than live in a city.
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):
“Should we take the train?” “No, I’d prefer to drive.” (not I’d prefer driving)
I’d prefer to stay home tonight rather than go to the movies.
Would rather (I’d prefer)
We use would rather + base form (do/have/stay, etc.). Compare:
“Should we take the train?” “I’d prefer to drive.” Or “I’d rather drive.” (not to drive)
“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 tonight, if you don’t mind.
“Do you want to go out tonight?” “I’d rather not.”
We say “would rather do something than do something else”:
I’d rather stay home than go to the movies.
I’d rather you did something
We say “I’d rather you did something” (not I’d rather you do). For example:
“I’ll fix the car tomorrow, OK?” “I’d rather you did it today.” (=I’d prefer this)
“Is it OK if Ben stays here?” “I’d rather he came with us.” (not he comes)
Should I tell them the news, or would you rather they didn’t know? (not don’t know)
In this structure we use the past (did/came, etc.), but the meaning is not past. Compare:
I’d rather make dinner now.
But I’d rather you made dinner now. (not I’d rather you make).
I’d rather you didn’t (do something) = I’d prefer that you not do it:
I’d rather you didn’t tell anyone what I said.
“Should I tell Stephanie?” “I’d rather you didn’t.”