Thursday, 3 October 2013

Expressing preferences

We often use words like prefer, would prefer, would rather to talk or ask about preferences.
"I prefer living on my own."
"Would you prefer to see a movie or go to a club?"
"Would you rather  go shopping with me?"

Those expressions are quite different in meaning and this is why learners of English often find them challenging. So here is how we can separate them:

Difference in meaning:
We tend to use 'prefer' to talk generally about likes, dislikes, what we want.
“He prefers reading books.”
“I prefer going to the beach than going to a swimming pool.”

The expressions 'would prefer' and 'would rather', to be a little more specific.
“I would prefer to see him in person.”
“I would rather go home now.”

Difference in form:
Followed by a different verb form:

“I prefer living in a city.” (followed by the gerund; the '-ing' ending)
“I would prefer to be told the truth.” (followed by the infinitive; to+ the verb)
“Would you rather stay at a hotel?” (followed by the base form of the verb; the verb without 'to'.

Different prepositions to state the choice.

prefer, would prefer – go with 'to'
“I'd prefer living in a city to living in the country.”
“I would (I'd) prefer being alone to being with the wrong person”.

would rather – goes with 'than'
“I would (I'd) rather talk to him in person than call him on the phone.”


1. He 'd like to go to Canada whereas his wife_____________ go to Mexico.
2. Her husband______________ rent a house.
3. Mrs Martin______________ to stay in a hotel.
4. My sister would like to have fun on Bondi Beach but I would ______________to go on a cruise.
5. My wife would like to rent a house in New York but I would ________________camp in the desert.
6. My wife would like to visit a museum, but I would_____________ to go to Ayers Rock.
7. I would__________ become a scubadiver.
8. I would___________ not to become a computer programmer.
9. I would____________ buy this cake because I prefer the taste.
10. I would ____________not rent a house in the Outback.

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