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 travelling by train.
but * I prefer to drive rather than travel by train.
* Ann prefers to live in the country 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’):
* ‘Shall we go by train?’ ‘Well, I’d prefer to go by car.’ (not ‘I’d prefer going’)
* I’d prefer to stay at home tonight rather than go to the cinema.
Would rather (I’d rather…)
Would rather (do) = would prefer (to do). After would rather we use the infinitive without to.
* ‘Shall we go by train?’ ‘I’d prefer to go by car.’
* ‘Shall we go by train?’ ‘I’d rather go by car.’ (not ‘to go’)
* ‘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 this evening, if you don’t mind.
* ‘Do you want to go out this evening?’ ‘I’d rather not.’
Study the structure after would rather:
I’d rather do something than (do) something else.
* I’d rather stay at home tonight than go to the cinema.
I’d rather you did something
When you want somebody to do something, you can say ‘I’d rather you did something’:
* ‘Shall I stay here?’ ‘I’d rather you came with us.’
* ‘Shall I tell them the news?’ ‘No. I’d rather they didn’t know.’
* Shall I tell them or would you rather they didn’t know?
In this structure we use the past (came, did etc.), but the meaning is present or future, not past.
* I’d rather cook the dinner now.
but * I’d rather you cooked the dinner now. (not ‘I’d rather you cook’)
The negative is ‘I’d rather you didn’t…’:
* I’d rather you didn’t tell anyone what I said.
* ‘Do you mind if I smoke?’ ‘I’d rather you didn’t.’