I am confused as to when to use "prefer to" and "prefer than".
For example, we write:

I prefer coffee to tea.

So why can't we use than instead of to?
Also, can someone give me an example of a sentence where we use prefer than? I exactly can't remember a sentence but I'm sure I've read it somewhere.

  • 1
    I haven't seen "prefer than". I think "than" is already included in the definition of prefer, because you like the noun that precedes it better than the one after it. The "to" - I don't know why that's the conjunction(?) used with the word prefer. Aug 22, 2013 at 17:08
  • 1
    Are you confusing it with "different to" vs "different than" ??
    – Peter K.
    Dec 2, 2015 at 3:38
  • 1
    Maybe you saw something like "I like to run more than I like to walk"?
    – ak0000
    Aug 16, 2021 at 7:59

4 Answers 4


The English phrase is prefer to.

Q. "So why can't we use than instead of to?"
That's just the way it is - that's the way the language has developed.

Q. "Can someone give me an example of a sentence where we use prefer than?"
No. It wouldn't be correct English.

"I exactly can't remember a sentence but I'm sure I've read it somewhere."
If you have read it, it was incorrect.

You may also like to look at this thread.

  • 1
    Well, let's add some contrast, you couldn't just switch "to" with "than", but there are constructions where you could use the word, that Shaona may have heard, misheard or misremembered. For example, you could say "I prefer bathing, rather than just lying on the beach." If you would say simply "I prefer bathing", it's implicit what you are preferring it to, but in my example "rather" is also used to explicitly state what it's being preferred over.
    – pzkpfw
    Jul 7, 2014 at 7:42
  • We can use "prefer-rather than" construction. For example: They prefer to leave rather than pay. (But "They would rather leave than pay" is better version).
    – starun008
    Jan 17, 2018 at 17:06

Because normally, people say the most important for them first, before the lesser important. And people like some kind of things in their range from the most important for them to the lesser important for them.

So they use "like" to specify something they like. And they use "prefer" to specify somethings they like, compare them, and make a intentional omission list of them by "to".


I think than does not work since it needs the adverbs less or more. If a comparative adjective such as stronger is used, to or over seem like a better fit.

I prefer coffee more than tea.
He prefers stronger drinks to weaker ones.

  • 2
    “I prefer coffee more than tea” does not make any sense to me. Preferring something implies a relationship between exactly two things: one superior, one inferior. You cannot prefer something more than something else to something. Aug 22, 2013 at 23:49
  • "I prefer coffee more than tea." means "I prefer coffee more than I prefer tea.", which does make sense, because if you prefer coffee, then you don't prefer tea! Maybe you "like coffee more than tea", but that's not the same as 'prefer'.
    – TrevorD
    Aug 23, 2013 at 10:22
  • If you want to make a general statement, you should say - I prefer something to something. I prefer coffee to tea.
    – Beqa
    May 6, 2019 at 20:40

The correct answer is- We use prefer "to" when the comparison is between:

  1. Noun to Noun Example- I prefer tea to coffee

  2. Gerund to Gerund ( gerund is V+ing form of verb) Example- I prefer skiing to playing.

We use prefer "than" when the comparison is between: Infinitives to Infinitives( infinitives are to+ first form of verb)

Example- I like to play than to read

  • 7
    Your last sentence is wrong. Like does not express comparison. If you want to express comparison with an infinitive, then you could use "would rather": I'd rather play than read. But that's not what OP's question is about since they're asking about prefer and not about comparisons.
    – None
    Jul 7, 2014 at 9:04
  • Thanks Laure...the original ques is when to use prefer to and prefer than..the word prefer itself mean choosing one thing over another. And as per grammatical usages, we generally use prefer to when we talking about two nouns-I prefer tea to coffee. And for gerunds like I prefer knitting to sewing. We generally use prefer than between two infinitives. For eg- I prefer to sing than dance... Jul 10, 2014 at 9:24
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    If you look at TrevorD's answer that was given last year, an answer that is correct, as well as the comments on that page you'll see why yours is wrong. As TrevorD says "That's just the way it is - that's the way the language has developed."
    – None
    Jul 10, 2014 at 15:45
  • @Anu Sukhija. You made a great point. According to the Advanced American Dictionary "We prefer somebody/something to somebody/something". On the other hand, we prefer to do/doing something (than) to do/doing something. Therefore, "I prefer to play(or playing) than to read (reading)" would be perfectly in order.
    – user90868
    Sep 9, 2014 at 14:58

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