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[edit: the original question was posted in ELL but failed to elicit any response. As a similar question was posted here at ELU "Prefer to" vs "prefer than", I think it is appropriate to transfer my question from ELL to ELU in hopes of getting some answers. The original question in ELL was deleted.]

In both ELL and ELU, there are many postings about the choice of "prefer to" vs. "prefer over" vs "prefer than" and the "correct" English is - always use "prefer to" as in "prefer banana to orange".

However, there is no discussion of "to prefer" used in a passive voice. While google Ngram viewer suggests the expression "is preferred than" is incorrect, a simple google search suggests all three expressions "A be preferred to B", "A be preferred over B" and "A be preferred than B" are probably fine. Are these three expressions equally grammatically correct and acceptable ?

Example: Bing is preferred to Google by people who are not like me

[https://statmodeling.stat.columbia.edu/2013/10/07/bing-is-preferred-to-google-by-people-who-arent-like-me/]

Example: Why CodeIgniter Development is Preferred than Other PHP Frameworks

[https://yourstory.com/mystory/why-codeigniter-development-is-preferred-than-othe-vno0vcio4a]

  • For Capacity, a lower value is preferred than a higher value
  • A higher composite score is preferred than a lower scoreList item

[https://www.va.gov/QUALITYOFCARE/measure-up/SAIL_definitions.asp]

Example: Where how is preferred over what

[https://www.latimes.com/archives/la-xpm-2004-mar-20-et-pagel20-story.html]

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    Prefer than is ungrammatical other than in the construction “I‘d prefer....rather than...
    – Gio
    Oct 23, 2019 at 14:21
  • 1
    Finding the odd example in a website (especially one that seems unavailable) is hardly proof of acceptability. Have you done any research in dictionary usage notes or grammars? Oct 23, 2019 at 14:34
  • If you are not amenable to the idiomatic use of English, your question may be unanswerable.
    – lbf
    Oct 23, 2019 at 15:24
  • google the whole title "why codeigniter development is preferred than other php frameworks" and then article can be found.
    – B Chen
    Oct 23, 2019 at 20:19
  • Dictionaries are rarely useful for proving the negative. If any dictionary does provide an explanation that "preferred than" is ungrammatical, it'll be very helpful to have the link provided
    – B Chen
    Oct 23, 2019 at 20:25

1 Answer 1

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I don't think 'prefer [something] than [something else]' is common enough even to consider.

However, use of the preposition 'over' after especially 'preferred' in the passive bears investigation. Here is an article by Jakub Marian (who, according to Amazon is a linguist, mathematician, and artist working as an educator, and who regularly writes articles about language learning ...):

“Which preposition should I use after the verb ‘prefer’?” is a common question among non-native and native speakers alike. Long story short, if you want to express that you like something more than something else, you can always use prefer to:

I prefer apples to oranges.

He prefers coffee to tea.

They prefer swimming to running.

The use of “prefer over” in place of “prefer to” (as in “I prefer apples over oranges”) is a relatively recent phenomenon (the expression only started gaining a little bit of ground in American literature in the 1940s and was almost non-existent in British literature until around 1980). Nonetheless, it is still about 10 times less common than “prefer to”, and many native speakers consider it unnatural, so use it only at your own risk.

It is worth mentioning, however, that “over” has become quite popular in connection with “prefer” in the passive voice. For instance, I was able to find both variants used by the same author within the same (law) book:

The more stringent policy is preferred to/over the somewhat less stringent policy.

In general, “preferred to” is still about twice as common as “preferred over” in English literature, so the former is the safer choice, but using “A is preferred over B” is much more acceptable than using “people prefer A over B”.*

There is one case, however, when using “prefer to” is not possible. When comparing two verbs, instead of “prefer to verb to to verb”, one should use “rather than” (or rephrase the whole sentence):

correct: I prefer to die rather than (to) live without you.

correct: I prefer dying to living without you.

wrong: I prefer to die to to live without you.

unnatural: I prefer to die to living without you.

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