“Would Prefer” vs. “Would Rather” – Difference Explained (+14 Examples)

“Would prefer” and “would rather” usually indicate a preference and comparison between two things. But what are the major differences between them, and how can we tell them apart? In this article, we’ll explore the answer to that question.

What Is The Difference Between “Would Prefer” And “Would Rather”?

“Would prefer” is a complete verb, meaning that no other verbs should come after the phrase. “Would rather” is an adverb, which means a second verb is needed to complete the sentence. Both phrases are used to show a preference of some kind.

What Is The Difference Between "Would Prefer" And "Would Rather"?

The meaning of “prefer,” according to The Cambridge Dictionary, is “to like, choose, or want one thing rather than another.” It is a verb already, meaning we simply need a pronoun to make it grammatically correct.

The meaning of “rather,” according to The Cambridge Dictionary, is “used to show that you prefer to have or do one thing more than another.” It is an adverb instead of a verb, so a second verb is needed in every sentence where “would rather” is used.

Incidentally, both Cambridge Dictionary definitions use the other word to define them. “Prefer” is defined with “rather,” and “rather” is defined with “prefer.” This shows just how similar they are in meaning.

The only thing you need to focus on to remember the difference is the sentence structure, which we’ll get to later in the article.

Watch the video: Only 1 percent of ... x
Watch the video: Only 1 percent of our visitors get these 3 grammar questions right...

What Does “Would Prefer” And “Would Rather” Mean?

Both of the words are identical in meaning; they’re just used in different sentences. It’s up to you which one you’d rather use, but as you learn more about the language, you’ll be able to decide which one works best in which situations.

“Would prefer” and “would rather” mean that we would like to do something more than something else. Both phrases are used as a comparison to show what our preference is.

We usually say it when we want to say that we’d like to do something else rather than whatever we’re already doing. Also, if someone has made plans or set something up, if we’d rather do something else, we might use one of these two phrases to show that.

A comparison judgment showing our preference will always occur when we use “would prefer” or “would rather.” Once we understand that, they’re easy to use. The next hurdle comes with remembering which sentence structure works for each one.

Can “Would Prefer” And “Would Rather” Ever Be Used Interchangeable?

Generally, both words are interchangeable with each other. You’ll hear native speakers using both of them in much the same contexts. Some people think “rather” is more formal, but it’s mostly up to the individual who uses it.

The two phrases are only different in that “prefer” is a verb and “rather” is an adverb. Other than that, they’re almost identical.

  • I would rather you didn’t do that.
  • I would prefer you didn’t do that.

These examples show when the two phrases are used interchangeably. Both of these are grammatically correct. Generally, the one with “prefer” is more suitable here because we’re not using the verb (“didn’t”) directly after the word, which makes “rather” less ideal.

The example with “would rather” still makes sense; it’s just not the usual case we would see it in.

Is “Would Prefer” Or “Would Rather” Used The Most?

We find that looking at data can be useful to work out which words and phrases are generally more useful to us than others. Popularity is a key driving force in how English develops over time, so it’s good to know about it.

From this graph, we can see that “would rather” is the more popular choice. It is much more popular in written English (which is what this graph assesses). Generally, we like to include a second verb after the phrase, which makes more sense to use with “would rather.”

Is "Would Prefer" Or "Would Rather" Used The Most?

There was a brief overlap of the two words in the 1980s, but it didn’t last long enough to make any substantial changes to what we consider correct in the language.

“Would rather” had a slight dip in the past few decades as well but has since been taking off again. It’s likely that “would prefer” might start to be used less in the future since more people are opting to write “would rather” again.

7 Examples Of How To use “Would Prefer” In A Sentence

Let’s go through some examples to help you understand when to use both forms. We want you to pay close attention to the sentence structures of both of these phrases – it’ll be the biggest sign showing you the difference between them.

“Would prefer” is already a verb. That means we don’t need to include another one directly after it for the sentence to make sense. “Would prefer” means we’d like to make a preference claim, even if we don’t think it’s going to be the final suggestion.

  1. I would prefer apples to oranges if you have them.
  2. I would prefer a movie trip over a theatre trip.
  3. I would prefer my bed tonight over someone else’s sofa.
  4. I would prefer it if you didn’t look under the dresser.
  5. I would prefer it if you stopped doing those really annoying things.
  6. I would prefer a discussion instead of sitting in silence.
  7. I would prefer it if we could just get along.

These examples help us to explain more about what we mean by using “would prefer.” We don’t include verbs after “prefer” because we’re already using “prefer” as the verb for the sentence.

It’s common to see sentence structures that look like either of these two:

  • I would prefer (object)
  • I would prefer it if…

These are the most common ways you would write “would prefer” in a sentence.

7 Examples Of How To use “Would Rather” In A Sentence

Now, let’s go over when “would rather” makes more sense. As we’ve said, sentence structure is the biggest indicator of the difference between these two, so pay close attention to it.

“Would rather” is an incomplete verb since “rather” is an adverb. We need to include another verb directly after it to have it make sense. “Would rather” means we’re putting forward our preference, even if we might not have our preference recognized in the future.

  1. I would rather have turkey instead of duck.
  2. If I could choose, I would rather go to Spain!
  3. He would rather do his homework outside.
  4. You would rather take him to the dance instead of me.
  5. I would rather poke both of my eyes out than see that again!
  6. I would rather tell them what we did wrong straight away.
  7. I would rather shoot my shot than miss out on the possibilities!

As you can see from these examples, a verb always comes after “rather” when we say it. This allows us to complete the verb form in the sentence, which makes it a complete sentence structure.

Without the second verb, our sentences will often be incomplete. It’s possible to include a pronoun between “rather” and the verb, like so:

  • I would rather you go home.

However, this is much less common, and many writers would rather use “would prefer” in this case.

Is It Negative To Say “Would Prefer” And “Would Rather”?

When it comes to speaking in a negative sense, “would prefer” and “would rather” aren’t definitive. You can use them in both negative and positive ways.

“Would prefer” and “would rather” are used to make a suggestion of preference. We can use it negatively to tell someone we don’t like something or to stop doing something. We can use it positively to encourage them to do something instead.

Here’s what we mean:

  • Negative:I would prefer you stop talking.
  • Positive:I would prefer apples if you have any!
  • Negative:I would rather go out with someone else than talk to you!
  • Positive:I would rather treat you to a fancy restaurant!

The context is the most important thing here when using them in negative or positive senses.

What Is The Difference Between “Prefer” And “Would Prefer”?

“Prefer” as a standalone verb is simply used to make a preference. It’s much more common than using “would prefer.” “Would” means that we’re talking about something we would like to change but that we know we might not be able to.

Generally, “would prefer” refers to something that’s more likely to happen in the future that we’d like to change. For that reason, it’s less common to come across the context where it is needed.

would prefer vs prefer historical development

That helps us to show you this graph, which clearly shows that “prefer” is the more common option. It’s more popular because it’s easier to use, and the context always presents itself more often.

Is “Rather Prefer” Correct?

Whenever it comes to someone writing “rather prefer,” you should make sure to correct them as it is wrong.

“Rather prefer” is a reduplication. It is incorrect in English. “Rather” can be defined using “prefer,” and “prefer” can be defined using “rather.” If we took their literal meanings, “rather prefer” means “rather rather,” or “prefer prefer.”

It’s never wise to double up on words like that in English, so we avoid doing so.

Is “Rather” A Formal Word?

Most people consider “rather” more formal than “prefer.” Many people use it in formal writing to talk about preferences, owing to the more professional tone it conveys.

What Is The Opposite Of “Rather”?

There isn’t a direct opposite word that we can use in place of “rather.” However, there are a few words that you can use that work well to show the opposite effect.

  • Dislike

If you want to say you dislike something, you can always compare it to something else that you do like. Used in this way, “dislike” is opposite to “rather.”

  • Reject

If you “reject” the idea of something, it means you don’t like what was presented and prefer something else. It works well as an opposite to “rather.”

Is It “Would Prefer To Do” Or “Would Prefer Doing”?

If you’ve paid attention to the language rules throughout this article, then hopefully, this next section will be a piece of cake for you.

“Would prefer to do” is the correct form to use. “To do” is an infinitive form verb, meaning that it doesn’t directly place a verb after “prefer.” “Would prefer doing” uses the present participle, and thus, does put a verb straight after “prefer.”

In most cases like this in English, you can’t have two verbs touching each other.

  • I would prefer to do something else.
  • I would prefer doing something else.

The first example is correct because “to” breaks up the two verbs. The second example is wrong and should never be used because “prefer” and “doing” are touching.

If you want to use “rather” instead, it will look like this:

  • I would rather do something else.

You can put “do” next to “rather,” but you can’t put “doing” there.” “Doing” is a present participle, meaning it needs an auxiliary verb to make it work. Other than that, “doing” is never used next to “rather.”

Would Prefer And Would Rather – Synonyms

Finally, let’s finish with some synonyms to use in place of these two phrases. If you’re struggling with the differences between them, we encourage learning one of these instead.

  • Would like

“Would like” is a great alternative that you can use in place of either one of the ones we’ve used throughout the article. It uses the same sentence structure as “would prefer” because like is also a verb.

  • Would enjoy

If you want to make a comparison about something you’d enjoy doing over something else, then “would enjoy” is a great one. Again, “enjoy” is already a verb. That means we use the same sentence structure as “would prefer.”

  • Would be happy to

“Would be happy to” is a longer phrase that we can use in the same way as “would rather.” We generally put a verb directly after it because “be happy to” isn’t a verb in itself.