I don't know when to use "rather" or "prefer", can someone explain the difference?
When do you use "rather" vs. "prefer" to?
Rather is used when talking about an action.
Example: I would rather.....[insert verb]......than......[insert verb]....
Prefer is used when stating a persons preference of a person place or thing. Example: I prefer.......[insert noun]
I prefer blue to green. vs I would rather blue to green.
I would rather swim than hike. vs I prefer swim to hike.
Note that swim (a verb) can be changed to the noun swimming (a thing one can do in water) such that
I prefer swimming to hiking.
You can prove that swimming and hiking are nouns here by putting them with rather.
I would rather swimming than hiking.
This "rather" sentence is incorrect, although someone might infer that you must mean "rather GO swimming than GO hiking.
The word "rather" is often used when you are comparing two ideas and favor one of them over the other one. For example: " I would rather study than go shopping in the mall today. " (You are preferring studying over shopping.) "Rather" is usually used in a "would rather" and "than" comparison sentence.
However, if I say, "I prefer chocolate ice cream." - I am stating what I like and I am implying that I like chocolate over the other flavors. However, with the verb "prefer", I do not need to explain the entire comparison or the two ideas being compared.
Rather is always followed by a bare (to-less) verb in a subjunctive construction:
- (would rather verb)
*When used without a comparison, as above, one may glean an inference that the other option is implausible.
When used with a comparison, the form is
- (would rather verb1 THAN verb2 OR verb3...)
Prefer may be followed by an infinitive in a subjunctive construction, a gerund or a noun.
- (would prefer to verb)
- (prefer verb-ing)
- (prefer buttons)
*Prefer can never be mistaken to mean that other options are implausible, but leaves them as possible alternatives.
When used with a comparison, the forms utilise the prepositions over or to:
- (would prefer to verb1 OVER verb2-ing OR verb3-ing...)
*note the non-parallel structure and use of or, this is fine and avoids ambiguity and redundancy.
- (prefer verb1-ing TO verb2-ing AND verb3-ing...)
- (prefer noun1 TO noun2 AND noun3...)
*all nouns and verbs have the option of being modified in any of these constructions.
Much of this is based on common, everyday usage or general expressions. I prefer is not used very often because we tend to say "I like" instead. They have quite similar meanings but we find other ways of saying how we feel which are more simple and direct.
We use "rather" usually when referring to things we want to do. In other words, "rather" is used more often to describe actions. Once upon a time, we would say, "I'd rather go to the mall" but today we say "I want to go to the mall" or "Let's go to the mall" or "I like the mall better."
When we use "prefer" we are usually expressing preference when deciding or comparing two or more things (nouns). But we usually say "I like vanilla better than chocolate" when in the past we would say "I prefer chocolate to vanilla."
The easiest way to look at this is:
rather is followed by a verb - Example - I rather go to the mall.
prefer is followed by an infinitive - Example - I prefer to go to the mall.
I hope this helps.