Which of these is correct and why?

  1. I’d rather it be you.

  2. I’d rather it were you.

  • See this Google N-Gram usage graph of the two versions over the past fifty years: notice how they’ve swapped around their popularity during that time.
    – tchrist
    Aug 2, 2015 at 12:37

4 Answers 4


Both are correct, and they mean different things.

"I'd rather it were you" means that it already is someone else, or assuredly is going to be someone else ("the decision has been made", "the results are in"), and my preference for you isn't expected to change anything.
"My travel partner is Dwight. I'd rather it were you."

"I'd rather it be you" means we are discussing something uncertain - an uncertain future, a tentative plan, a hypothesis, a set of critically incomplete information - and it includes the idea of "it" being someone other than you. It implies nothing either way about whether my preference for you could change things, but it does imply a possibility that it might yet end up being you.
"It seems the boss is planning to pair me up with Dwight. I'd rather it be you."


It's a good question. Both are correct. The first is much more formal sounding these days.

In English there is no true future tense. We can use "will" or we can use present tense. Thus,

"I hope you go tomorrow." (present expressing future)


"I hope you will go tomorrow. ('will' expressing future)

When you introduce 'rather' you also add the English subjunctive. You can see the tenses used by adding a sub-clause.

"I'd rather it be you that goes tomorrow." (present subjunctive)

"I'd rather it were you that went tomorrow." (past subjunctive)

  • No, it’s would that’s triggering subjunctive use here, but note that this is a transitive will, not an auxiliary one.
    – tchrist
    Aug 2, 2015 at 12:07
  • @tchrist, what do you mean by "transitive will" as opposed to an "auxiliary" one? Jan 11, 2020 at 15:22
  • @MrReality Transitive will occurs when the verb takes an object complement, as in ❶ “She was willing to see it through to the bitter end.” or even ❷ “Who am I to will the hastening of her demise?” Also ❸ 1591 Shakespeare Henry VI pt I, ɪ. iii. — “We do no otherwise than we are will’d. / Duke of Gloucester. Who willed you? or whose will stands but mine?” ❹ 1896 A. E. Housman Shropshire Lad xxx. 44 — “Others, I am not the first, Have willed more mischief than they durst.” Many of these are now archaic apart from be willing and would rather. [cont…]
    – tchrist
    Jan 11, 2020 at 18:19
  • […cont] Other citations: ❺ 1616 Shakespeare As You Like It ɪɪɪ. ii. — “Heaven would that she these gifts should have / And I to live and die her slave.” ❻ 1860 E.B. Pusey Minor Prophets 20 — “When to will the same and nill the same, maketh of twain, one spirit.” ❼ 1868 Tennyson Lucretius 68 — “Because I would not one of thine own doves, / Not ev’n a rose, were offer’d to thee.” ❽ 1885 Tennyson The Charge of the Heavy Brigade at Balaclava Epilogue in Tiresia & Other Poems 165 — “I would that wars should cease, I would the globe from end to end / Might sow and reap in peace.”
    – tchrist
    Jan 11, 2020 at 18:22

Both seem to be correct whereas I'd rather it be you seem a little bit off use rather than another. I'd rather it were you is just the same construction as I wish I were you which nowadays can be replaced by I wish I was you.


"I'd rather it be you" sounds American to me, British rarely uses the subjunctive anymore. "I'd rather it was you" would sound the most idiomatic.

  • 1
    Do you have justification for assigning these expressions to AmE and BrE? Please give it. Ngram seems to contradict your assertions. Aug 1, 2015 at 13:44
  • Sheer experience, my dear fellow. Ngram? Never heard of it. Aug 1, 2015 at 14:08
  • I'm just wondering because I'm American and I would never say "I'd rather it would be you". Aug 1, 2015 at 16:35
  • @PeterShor "God wishes that every man be free" would be said by an American, wheras a Brit would say "God wishes that every man should be free", thus avoiding the subjunctive use of be. Aug 2, 2015 at 11:32
  • 1
    Very true. But that has nothing to do with the construction "I'd rather it would be you". This has an unnecessary and ungrammatical extra would in it, that isn't the subjunctive, and that most Americans wouldn't put in (although maybe a few would). We'd say "I'd rather it was you" or "I'd rather it were you". Aug 2, 2015 at 11:42

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