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Alternative formsEdit


Borrowing from Anglo-Norman preferer and Middle French preferer, (French préférer), from Latin praeferō, praeferre.



prefer (third-person singular simple present prefers, present participle preferring, simple past and past participle preferred)

  1. (transitive, now dated) To advance, promote (someone). [from 14thc.]
    • 1621, Democritus Junior [pseudonym; Robert Burton], The Anatomy of Melancholy, Oxford: Printed by Iohn Lichfield and Iames Short, for Henry Cripps, OCLC 216894069:, II.3.2:
      Tiberius preferred many to honours in his time, because they were famous whoremasters and sturdy drinkers [].
  2. (transitive) To be in the habit of choosing something rather than something else; to favor; to like better. [from 14thc.]
    I prefer tea to coffee.
    • 1907, Robert William Chambers, chapter VIII, in The Younger Set (Project Gutenberg; EBook #14852), New York, N.Y.: A. L. Burt Company, published 1 February 2005 (Project Gutenberg version), OCLC 4241346:
      "My tastes," he said, still smiling, "incline me to the garishly sunlit side of this planet." And, to tease her and arouse her to combat: "I prefer a farandole to a nocturne; I'd rather have a painting than an etching; Mr. Whistler bores me with his monochromatic mud; I don't like dull colours, dull sounds, dull intellects; []."
  3. (transitive) To present or submit (something) to an authority (now usually in "to prefer charges"). [from 16thc.]
  4. (obsolete, transitive) To put forward for acceptance; to introduce, recommend (to). [16th-19thc.]
    • 1630, John Smith, True Travels, in Kupperman 1988, p.36:
      one Master David Hume, who making some use of his purse, gave him Letters to his friends in Scotland to preferre him to King James.
    • 1817, Walter Scott, Rob Roy, XVII:
      Such were the arguments which my will boldly preferred to my conscience, as coin which ought to be current, and which conscience, like a grumbling shopkeeper, was contented to accept [].

Usage notesEdit

  • The verb can be used in three different forms:
    1. prefer + noun + to (or over) + noun. Example: I prefer coffee to tea.
    2. prefer + gerund + to (or over) + gerund. Example: I prefer skiing to swimming.
    3. prefer + full infinitive + rather than + bare infinitive. Example: I prefer to eat fish rather than (eat) meat.



Derived termsEdit