Which syntax is more correct:

to prefer something over something else


to prefer something to something else

or maybe both are correct?

  • I don't have any facts, thus I am putting this in a comment. I generally like to use the "something to something" version, I would still understand "something over something" though. Jan 2 '15 at 18:48
  • The syntax is identical, it's the wording that is different.
    – Jon Hanna
    Jan 2 '15 at 19:04
  • 1
    Whichever you prefer over the other.
    – Hot Licks
    Jan 2 '15 at 20:01
  • Oh no, I more prefer one than the other.
    – user63230
    Jan 3 '15 at 0:50

I would say that both are correct. In fact, I use and hear both formulations used interchangeably.

However, I do think that using over creates more emphasis than using to. This may be a personal preference, and I don't think that misuse of this would screw up your message. But, like I said, I notice that I use the prepositions in this way:

For example, if I was trying to clearly distinguish Mary's cooking from John's cooking, I might say:

I prefer Mary's cooking over John's cooking. He just doesn't have what it takes to be good cook.

But, if I wanted to show a preference while not making it so strong, I would use to:

I prefer Mary's cooking to John's, but he's still very talented.


Both sentences are gramatically correct.

The Survey found that a majority of customers preferred Brand A to Brand B.

  • it implies that you want A, but don't want B

The Survey found that a majority of customers preferred Brand A over Brand B.

  • it implies that you want A, however you can settle for B, too.

However, "prefer to" is the phrase, makes grammatical as well as semantic sense.

    I prefer tea to coffee.

If an action is involved I'd use over. If it's an object I'd use to. For example:

  • I prefer biking over walking.
  • I prefer a cup of coffee to a cup of tea.
  • These Google Ngrams seem to indicate that to is used far more frequently with both nouns and the more verby forms you mention (often called gerunds). Jan 2 '15 at 20:17

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