I'd rather/I'd prefer/I'd rather prefer

albertovidal

Senior Member
Spanish, Argentina
Over fifty years ago I was taught by an English liguist professor (she was a 55 year ol woman -native- and the Chief of translators of the British Embassy in Buenos Aires), that "rather" was the short form for "rather prefer".
Now, I've told that saying "rather prefer" is redundant.
My questions are: when are "rather" and "prefer" used and whether or not "rather prefer" is acceptable and correct.
Thanks in advance for your comments
 
  • boreen

    Senior Member
    English - US
    Hi! I'm not a linguist but to me, "rather prefer" does seem redundant. I hear people say that they "prefer to (& verb)" or they would "rather (& verb)" but not both together.
     

    Matching Mole

    Senior Member
    England, English
    Please provide an example sentence for context (i.e. of where "rather" means "rather prefer"). It surely does not mean this in every context.
     

    Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    Hi alberto

    I wouldn't, myself, see "I'd rather" as an abbreviated form of "I'd rather prefer", for two reasons:

    • I'd rather = both I had rather and I would rather
    • rather in I'd rather prefer would mean, to me, "slightly" or "to a certain extent".
    Your sentence He would rather prefer going on vacations than staying alone at home means, for me, He'd slightly prefer going on vacations or To an extent, he'd prefer going on vacations.
     

    albertovidal

    Senior Member
    Spanish, Argentina
    Hi alberto

    I wouldn't, myself, see "I'd rather" as an abbreviated form of "I'd rather prefer", for two reasons:

    • I'd rather = both I had rather and I would rather
    • rather in I'd rather prefer would mean, to me, "slightly" or "to a certain extent".
    Your sentence He would rather prefer going on vacations than staying alone at home means, for me, He'd slightly prefer going on vacations or To an extent, he'd prefer going on vacations.
    Then, to my best understanding, I could then say "He would rather go on vacations than staying alone at home" = "He would prefer going on vacations (rather) than staying alone at home"
    But "He would rather prefer..." has a different meaning.
    Am I correct?
    Thanks
     

    Matching Mole

    Senior Member
    England, English
    But "He would rather going on vacations than staying alone at home" is wrong, so rather does not seem to mean prefer here. It must mean something else; in fact it means something like "to some degree". As the Compact OED says, it is used to "make the expression of a feeling or opinion less assertive".

    You can say "I'd rather you left" and "I'd prefer that you left" to mean the same thing, but "I'd rather prefer that you left" means something like "I would somewhat prefer that you left".

    Rather isn't redundant at all. This "rule" does not take into account that there are two meanings for the word "rather" (three in fact, but the other meaning is not relevant here).
     

    albertovidal

    Senior Member
    Spanish, Argentina
    But "He would rather going on vacations than staying alone at home" is wrong, so rather does not seem to mean prefer here. It must mean something else; in fact it means something like "to some degree". As the Compact OED says, it is used to "make the expression of a feeling or opinion less assertive".

    You can say "I'd rather you left" and "I'd prefer that you left" to mean the same thing, but "I'd rather prefer that you left" means something like "I would somewhat prefer that you left".

    Rather isn't redundant at all. This "rule" does not take into account that there are two meanings for the word "rather" (three in fact, but the other meaning is not relevant here).
    Sorry, I made a mistake when I wrote the sentence. It should read: He would rather go on vacations than staying alone at home.
     

    Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    Then, to my best understanding, I could then say "He would rather go on vacations than staying alone at home" = "He would prefer going on vacations (rather) than staying alone at home"
    But "He would rather prefer..." has a different meaning.
    Am I correct?
    Yes:).
     

    Matching Mole

    Senior Member
    England, English
    Sorry, I made a mistake when I wrote the sentence. It should read: He would rather go on vacations than staying alone at home.
    Note I've corrected the above, as "would rather" needs a (bare) infinitive, whereas prefer can take a gerund or the to-infinitive.

    If you were to put "rather prefer" in this sentence, though, it would either be incorrect (i.e. redundant) or would have to mean something like "somewhat prefer".

    I think, in fact, it's an unlikely statement, because the use of rather to "make the expression of a feeling or opinion less assertive" wouldn't really be used except in the first person, because it is used to soften the opinions or preferences of the speaker, not of someone else (unless you were speaking for them).

    It also makes more sense to use it when the opinion or preference is likely to disagree with the hearer or express something that that they may find unpleasant (e.g. "I'd rather prefer that you left").

    This is somewhat academic, anyway, I think, as not many people talk like this nowadays, and I think we can all safely go through our lives without ever saying "rather prefer".
     

    JARoberts

    New Member
    English - Canada
    A little late to reply but I saw this thread and wanted to tidy up the conclusions just a bit. Whenever I learn a language, I get really upset when I get a partially-accurate correction that turns out to have missed something critical, so I'm hoping this helps you/others to avoid going through that.

    First, regarding the original question, I've heard "rather prefer" but it's not used colloquially or in any business/academic writing I have seen in North America.

    Second, the sentence you composed/corrected is as follows: "He would rather go on vacations than staying alone at home."
    I noticed a few small issues with this formulation that impact the overall use of 'rather' and 'prefer', and the flow of English in general.

    1) In terms of word order, in this context, you would modify "at home" by writing "stay at home alone" instead of "stay alone at home." In this context, alone is the modifier of at home, and not the other way around.

    2) As mentioned by others, in this sentence, you have two distinct tenses: "rather go" and "staying" do not work together in this instance as they are alternatives. This being the case, you need to match the tenses and the choice between 'rather' and 'prefer' has to do with the active/passive nature of the message you wish to convey.

    Identical options: "He would rather go on vacation than stay at home alone" OR "He would prefer to go on vacation rather than stay at home alone" (Hypothetical)
    Alternative 1: "He would prefer going on vacation to/over staying at home alone." (Hypothetical)
    Alternative 2: "He prefers going on vacation to/over staying at home alone." (Active)

    Use of than vs to/over for the comparison term depends on the tense selected, and depending on the message, you may prefer to have an active or passive/hypothetical voice. When using 'prefer', you can also replace to/over/rather than with 'instead of', though this is extremely context dependent.

    I hope this helps a bit and I'm sorry if it winds up being more confusing.
     
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