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If I prefer something over something else, does that imply that I have had a prior experience with one of the two things?

OED has preference defined as 'A greater liking for one alternative over another or others.'

Can I like something without having any experiences with it?

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  • I prefer to not eat arsenic.
    – Hot Licks
    Jun 14, 2017 at 18:16
  • @HotLicks, why? did you have it before and didn't like the taste?
    – fixer1234
    Jun 14, 2017 at 20:14
  • @fixer1234 - When my wife served it to me last I could tell without tasting it that I wouldn't like it.
    – Hot Licks
    Jun 16, 2017 at 3:22
  • If you found the definition in this Oxford dictionary, please note that this is not the OED. Instead, it is abbreviated on this site as ODO, standing for Oxford Dictionary online. The OED is the Oxford English Dictionary and requires a paid subscription to access it online. Jun 16, 2017 at 3:23

3 Answers 3

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Experience is not necessary, but generally a basis, reason, or rationale will motivate a preference.

  • Based on my past experience, I prefer...
  • I prefer this time because...
  • Of the two carnations you have presented, I prefer the white one.
  • I choose option A. I have no reason other than that I must make a choice; my choices appear to be of equal consequence. Option A will be my preference from now on.

On the other hand, you will occasionally find someone who will claim a preference with no clear basis. A child might behave this way. That doesn't make their preference any less real:

Why do you prefer the kitten and not the puppy? I don't know, I just do!

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In most cases, It has nothing to do with your prior experience.

Recently, I had to tell an exam Organisers that my preferred time slot is 5 PM from the given range of 12 to 5.

Here my preference 5 is my convenience on the given day.

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I think having a preference over things that require experience (like eating kiwifruit, as opposed to meeting at a certain time) does require experience. You cannot prefer something if you don't know if you like it or not.

You could certainly opine that you expect you'd prefer something. "I think I'd prefer London over Paris, but I haven't been to Paris yet. I prefer the idea of going to London again over going to Paris for the first time." But you could not prefer London to Paris had you not visited both.

(You could prefer one over the other based on what you know, but this would be a conditional preference and the condition ought to be expressed, e.g. "From what I've seen on the Internet, I prefer London to Paris.")

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  • Infants may be an exception to "you cannot prefer something if you don't know if you like it or not." They have a preference for foods based on how yucky they look (the food, not the infant).
    – fixer1234
    Jun 14, 2017 at 20:18
  • @fixer1234 That's a valid form of preference. Based on appearance and smell, they prefer food X to food Y. Jun 14, 2017 at 20:46

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