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I have just finished reading an extremely long thread on the above mentioned subjects on this site: (https://forum.wordreference.com/threads/demand-request-suggest-that-bare-infinitive-subjunctive-indicative.384237/)

Although a lot of things cleared up to me, I still have a little confusion about these two sentences :

I'd rather that he be on time. I'd rather he was on time.

I found the first one among the examples of a native answerer but i was taught in school that if there's a subject in a "i'd rather-type-sentence" i should use past tense. So now i'm a bit puzzled...are they maybe different because of using "that" one time and not using it the other time?

Thank you all in advance, Mate

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  • @Toothrot Me, I’d rather he were on time. :)
    – tchrist
    Commented Mar 24, 2019 at 16:26

1 Answer 1

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Collins Cobuild English Usage (p567) states:

You can use would rather followed by a clause to say that you would prefer something to happen or to be done. In the clause you use the past simple tense.

  • Would you rather she came to see me?
  • May I go? - I 'd rather you didn't.

Practical English Usage (p492) has a rather more nuanced entry:

We can use would rather to say that a person would prefer somebody to do something. We use a special structure with a past tense.

would rather + subject + past tense

  • I 'd rather you went home now.

  • Tomorrow's difficult. I 'd rather you came next weekend.

  • My wife would rather we didn't see each other anymore.

  • Shall I open a window? - I 'd rather you didn't.

A present tense or present subjunctive is possible e.g. (I'd rather he goes / he go home now), but unusual.

As a British English native speaker I am unlikely to say I'd rather that he be on time. But some American English speakers in particular may prefer it to its past tense alternative.

The presence or absence of that makes no difference here.

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  • Thank you so much for your detailed answer! You're just great!
    – Mate
    Commented Mar 24, 2019 at 10:20
  • I don't know I’d use be there myself, but I might well use were.
    – tchrist
    Commented Mar 24, 2019 at 16:27

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