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Rather than and would rather

Rather than is normally used in parallel structures: for example with two adjectives, adverbs, nouns, infinitives or -ing forms. When the main clause has a to-infinitive, rather than is normally followed by an infinitive without to. An -ing form is also possible.

  • I would prefer to leave now rather than wait.
  • You ought to admit your crime rather than defend it.
  • I would prefer to go in August rather than in July.
  • I decided to write rather than phone/phoning. (NOT …than to phone)
Would rather

Would rather means 'would prefer to'. It is followed by an infinitive without to.

  • Would you rather stay here or go home? (=Would you prefer to stay here or go home.)
Would rather + subject + past tense

We can use would rather to say that one person would prefer another or others to do something. We use a special structure with a past tense.

  • Don’t come today, I would rather you came tomorrow. (=I would prefer you to come tomorrow.)
  • I would rather you posted this letter. (= I would like you to post this letter.)

To talk about past actions, a past perfect tense is possible.

  • I would rather you hadn't done that. (= I wish you hadn't done that.)


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