Prefer Vs. Rather

Which do you prefer?

Talking about likes and dislikes is a popular conversation activity to do in class, and English language learners can use a variety of verbs such as like, dislike, love, hate, enjoy, etc. But when it comes to describing what they like better out of two or more options, learners should know how to use prefer and rather correctly. Read on for some teaching tips on these two common terms.

Prefer

Prefer is a verb that means “to like better.” Note the use of to and or in some of the following patterns.

Form: wh-word + prefer
Examples:
  • Which one do you prefer?
  • What does he prefer to do tonight?
  • Where would you prefer to go this weekend?
Form: prefer + gerund/infinitive
Examples:
  • They prefer eating out to cooking at home.
  • Do you prefer playing or watching sports?
  • Because I’m a bit shy, I prefer to listen during meetings.
Form: prefer + noun
Examples:
  • I prefer the red dress.
  • She prefers apples to oranges.

Prefer also has a noun form, preference.

Form: preference
Examples:
  • Do you have a preference?
  • She made her preference clear.

Rather

Rather is an adverb that has several uses, but it is commonly used to express a preference. Note that it is usually preceded by the modal would and followed by a verb. The use of than and or is also common in some patterns with rather.

Form: wh-word + would + rather + verb
Examples:
  • Which would you rather wear, the black shirt or the white one?
  • What would they rather discuss?
  • When would she rather meet?
Form: would + rather + verb
Examples:
  • She would rather stay home than go out.
  • I’d rather call you tomorrow.
  • Would you rather read a book or watch TV?

Other options

Some other ways to express preferences in English include the verb like with better or more. Negative preferences can be expressed with like less or dislike more.

  • She likes the color blue better than green.
  • He likes playing the guitar more than studying.
  • I like Chinese food less than Japanese food.
  • They dislike cold weather more than rain.

Practice

In the following lessons, your students can see prefer and rather in context and practice the different sentence patterns.

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