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Expressing Preference

This is an easy topic, especially when you acquire your English, rather than learn it methodically. People acquire a language by learning it from their parents, or by living in a country in order to learn the respective language, instead of taking a systematic approach, like we do in school. Learning from films is also a method of acquiring a language and we all use a combination of these means at times.

These are easy expressions to learn and memorise, but let me briefly explain to you the logic behind them.

To prefer means to like more or to like better and it indicates a comparison between certain choices we’re pointing out in the communication. The sentence will contain both choices, but the rejected alternative is introduces by

i) a to-phrase:

“Most people prefer trains to buses.”
“He prefers watching a football match to having dinner with his mother.”

ii) The expression 'rather than', which may be followed by an infinitive (with or without to) or by an '-ing participle':

“He prefers to play on his computer rather than to do his homework.”
Rather than work in a factory, he prefers to continue studying.”
“She has always preferred cooking at home rather than eating out.”
“Their new dog prefers sleeping indoors instead of using the cage at the back of the house.”

If it’s a hypothetical preference you need to express (a theoretical one) you need to use 'would prefer' with a 'to- infinitive'. However, this can be replaced by 'would rather' with the bare infinitive (without to), which may be followed by a 'than-construction'.

“I’d prefer to stay in a guest house rather than in a hotel.”
“I’d rather stay in a guest house than in a hotel.”

That’s all there is to this matter – the rest is practice. Lots of it, as well.

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