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prefer to do or prefer doing

Discussion in 'English Only' started by sevengem, Feb 27, 2010.

  1. sevengem

    sevengem Senior Member

    Chinese
    Hello! Can anyone tell me the difference?

    She prefers playing basketball.
    She prefers to play basketball.
     
  2. e2efour Senior Member

    England (aged 73)
    UK English
    I think if you say She prefers playing basketball it may be that you are more likely to follow this with a comparison, e.g. playing basketball to/rather than riding horses.

    She prefers to play basketball is more likely to be a stand-alone answer to the question "What does she like to do best?"

    But really there's no difference. Sometimes you have to use the gerund form when making a comparison. So you can't say She prefers to play basketball to to play chess. You can instead say She prefers to play basketball to playing chess OR She prefers to play basketball rather than to play chess.
     
  3. panjandrum

    panjandrum PongoMod

    Belfast, Ireland
    English-Ireland (top end)
  4. julj1 New Member

    Madrid, Spain
    English (USA)
    I agree with the previous answers but might add that in my experience I found that "to play" is more common in American English and "playing" is usually the preferred from in British English, although both sound completely normal to both.
     
  5. sevengem

    sevengem Senior Member

    Chinese
    Thank you!! I got it now. By the way, is the second "to" usually omitted in this sentence pattern?

    She prefers to play basketball rather than (to) play chess
     
  6. e2efour Senior Member

    England (aged 73)
    UK English
    I don't know, but if forced to guess, I would say that the second to is more often omitted in speech.
     
  7. Participant Junior Member

    Canada, Ontario
    Russian
    Hi e2effour,

    Excuse me that I am correcting you answer (I am not a native speaker); however, I remember this specific Grammar rule.

    According to Raymond Murphy "English Grammar in Use" ( a blue book), third editon, the Unit 59 " Prefer and would rather"
    the correct version of your sentence is:

    She prefers to play basketball rather than to play chess (not "to play chess").

    "We say I prefer to drive rather than travel by train (not "to travel")."-the example from Murphy.

    Cheers.
     
  8. Andygc Senior Member

    Devon
    British English
    Hi Participant. Grammar does not consist of rigid rules, and rule books can be wrong. "I prefer to drive rather than to travel by train" is not wrong. It is a structure that I use frequently. I also use the alternative structure "I prefer to drive rather than travel by train". My usage depends on how I feel that the sentence sounds. You will not be mistaken if you follow that rule, but do not be surprised to read or hear sentences with the second "to" in them.

    Thinking more on it, my father nearly always used the second "to", and I use it more often than not.
     
    Last edited: Feb 27, 2010
  9. TommyGun Senior Member

    Interesting. Could you possibly describe what you feel when omitting the to and when keeping it? Since you use to more often than not; what circumstances or changes in your mood suggest to you to leave it out?
     
  10. Andygc Senior Member

    Devon
    British English
    I'm afraid not - my usage could change from one day to the next and might change from one verb to another. It might even be affected by whom I am talking to.
     
  11. TommyGun Senior Member

    I prefer to drive rather than travel by train.
    How do you perceive this to - belonging only to drive, or belonging to both drive and travel?
     
  12. panjandrum

    panjandrum PongoMod

    Belfast, Ireland
    English-Ireland (top end)
    The "to" applies to both of the following verbs.
    Or alternatively, the "to" belonging to "travel" has been elided.
     

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