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what is the difference between the following?

I'd rather you went home now. I'd rather you go home .

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It's not actually simple present - expanded, it is:

I would rather you went home now.

It actually form a mood, the subjunctive mood, which is rather fossilised and dated in English but nevertheless has its uses. 'would' on Collins

As for:

  • I'd rather you went home now
  • I'd rather you go home

I don't really parse them as having any difference; I can't think of any situation where they two would have different meaning, unless it was in the following type of exchange:

  • A: I want to stay.
  • B: I'd rather you go home.

But even then, it would only be a rhetorical preference. I'll note that traditionally, the infinitive form (ie go) has been used with the subjunctive - for instance, I'd rather we be quiet now, rather than I'd rather we are quiet now, which is questionable at the very least.

In short: you've used it correctly. For present tense desires/preference, there's no difference I can discern between past/present in the subordinate clause, at least not with regard to everyday usage.

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