Prefer to vs. Prefer over vs. Prefer than

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Prefer: If you prefer one person or thing to another, you like the first one better.

 

My sister prefers dogs to cats.                               

My sister prefers dogs over cats.                          

My sister prefers dogs than cats.              

My sister prefers dogs rather than cats.                       

I prefer to drink tea than to drink coffee.            

I prefer to drink tea rather than drink coffee.        

 

Which preposition should you use after the verb ‘prefer’? Native as well as non-native speakers have grappled with the situation alike. To cut the story short, if you want to express that you like something more than something else, ‘prefer to’ is always a safer choice.

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary of English Usage (MDEU) says that to is the common word used to construct comparisons using prefer: “when it is used to compare two things in the same sentence, the thing that comes second is usually introduced by to.

Hence, ‘prefer… instead of’, ‘prefer… more than’ and ‘prefer… than’ are incorrect.
Some example sentences of ‘prefer to

Emma prefers prose to poetry.

The old man prefers raincoat to umbrella.

Jane prefers bear to wine.

He prefers tea to coffee.

They prefer train to bus.

Our dog prefers fish to meat.

She prefers skirts to jeans.

Grandpa prefers the town to the country.

[ + -ing verb ] Father prefers staying home to going out.

She prefers her dress to cousin’s.

Everybody in my class prefers football to badminton.

Be Careful! Don’t use any preposition except to in sentences like these. Don’t say, for example ‘ My sister prefers dogs than cats.’

More example sentences of ‘prefer to’

Williams preferred cooking at home to eating in restaurants.

Grandma had two puppies and she preferred them to most people.

Nancy has become lazy, preferring taking a taxi to market to walking.

Be careful! Don’t use ‘prefer to’ when comparing two verbs. Instead, use ‘rather than’ or rephrase the whole sentence.

She would prefer to die rather than (to) go to her ex.          

She would prefer dying to going to her ex.                            

She would prefer to die to go to her ex.                                 

She would prefer to die to going to her ex.                             (awkward)

Notice that ‘prefer’ is rather formal. In spoken English, you often use expressions like… ‘better’ and ‘would rather’ instead. For example, instead of saying ‘my sister prefers dogs to cats’, you can say ‘my sister likes dogs better/rather than cats’.

 

Prefer over:

The use of “prefer over” in place of “prefer to” is less common and many native speakers consider it unnatural, so use it only at your own peril. Some people even say ‘prefer over’ sounds alien to them. Nonetheless, “prefer over” is gaining a bit of ground in passive voice:

Dane prefers having dogs over cats.

The democratic states are preferred to/over the less democratic ones.

Many plus-size women simply prefer the solid colours and will choose them over the other patterns.

When it comes to buying house, Sarah prefers private showing over open house visit.

 

Strictly speaking ‘Prefer than’ is incorrect.

 

Our survey shows that a vast majority of women prefer Jimmy Choo than other brands. 

However, if the sentence is rephrased by adding the comparative words “better” or “rather”, it would also be correct. (Conjunctive phrases connect two grammatical equivalents.

She much prefers it when her father tells her that than the other people do.     

Our survey shows that a vast majority of women prefer Jimmy Choo over other brands.

Our survey shows that a vast majority of women prefer Jimmy Choo better/ rather than other brands.

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