prefer to, prefer rather than, prefer more than

Which should you use, prefer, prefer … rather than, prefer … than, prefer … more than, or prefer …instead of? The verb prefer means to like or want someone or something more than someone or something else. Prefer generally takes the preposition to. Prefer … instead of, prefer … more than and prefer … than are incorrect.

Incorrect: I prefer coffee rather than tea.
Correct: I prefer coffee to tea.
Incorrect: People prefer watching TV instead of reading.
Correct: People prefer watching TV to reading.
Incorrect: I prefer jogging than cycling.
Correct: I prefer jogging to cycling.
Incorrect: I prefer dancing more than singing.
Correct: I prefer dancing to singing.

While prefer is followed by to in most cases, there is an exception. When prefer is followed by a to-infinitive, rather than is used.

Correct: They prefer to leave rather than pay.
Correct: The city prosecutor preferred to step down rather than do his job.

It is, however, better to change prefer plus to-infinitive to would rather plus infinitive.

Correct: They would rather leave than pay.
Correct: The city prosecutor would rather step down than do his job.

Alternatively, use a gerund after prefer and to.

Correct: They prefer leaving to paying.
Correct: The city prosecutor preferred stepping down to doing his job.

Do not use prefer … instead of, prefer … more than or prefer … than when a to-infinitive follows prefer.

Incorrect: He preferred to stay instead of leaving immediately.
Correct: He preferred to stay rather than leave immediately.
Correct: He would rather stay than leave immediately.
Correct: He preferred staying to leaving immediately.
Incorrect: I prefer to read more than to listen.
Correct: I prefer to read rather than listen.
Correct: I would rather read than listen.
Correct: I prefer reading to listening.
Incorrect: I prefer to drink water than to drink soda.
Correct: I prefer to drink water rather than drink soda.
Correct: I would rather drink water than soda.
Correct: I prefer drinking water to drinking soda.

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