Whenever someone tells me that he or she prefers something, I take it as though the person is likely to choose that thing, but if it is not available, then the person is open to choosing something else.
To me, it contrasts with someone telling me that he or she only wants something. I take that as though the person only desires that thing, and if it's not available, then he or she will keep waiting or looking for it. That is, the person is not open to choosing something else.
- "I prefer vanilla ice cream." (If there's no vanilla ice cream, she might just get another flavor.)
- "I only want vanilla ice cream." (If there's no vanilla ice cream, she might go to a different store or wait for vanilla ice cream to be made.)
The above is my own understanding. First question is, is my understanding correct?
Secondly, I have come across quite a few situations where someone tells me they prefer something, but really what they mean is they only want that. So I misunderstand them and offer an alternative, only to be met with a baffling dismissal. After attempting to clarify with them on why they don't want the alternative, I understand what they really meant. It is frustrating, and I would wish they had been clearer by saying they only want something instead of preferring it.
So my second question is, can "prefer" and "only want" be used interchangeably? Or is that person just plain wrong to use "prefer" when they mean "only want"?
Please suggest any additional relevant tags I can add.