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I was doing some English exercises when I came across the following sentence:

"I prefer _____ my own decisions to asking for advice. (make)"

I think that I should fill the blank with "to make", but the right answer is supposed to be "making".

Can someone explain or point some referrence to me about this grammar rule? (I don't even know if it is grammar or not.)

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  • Either making or to make is grammatical. There's no difference in meaning; prefer is just one of those verbs that can take either gerund or infinitive, like like and the sense verbs. Commented Jul 26, 2022 at 1:11

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This is not really grammar, it is (i) 50% style – parallelism – English likes parallelism and (ii) 50% how infinitives are dealt with:

The general form is “I prefer A to B” The parallelism occurs as, usually, A and B are expressed in the same terms:

(i) I prefer beer to wine -> noun to noun

I prefer quickly to slowly -> adverb to adverb

I prefer tall to short -> adjective to adjective

I prefer {making my own decisions} to {asking for advice}.” Gerund phrase to gerund phrase.

(ii) But for infinitives and infinitive phrases/clauses the construction differs although the parallelism is maintained:

“I prefer to sleep rather than to work." (You can see how “I prefer to sleep to to work” would not work…)

“I prefer to make my own decisions rather than to ask for advice.". -> infinitive to infinitive.

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  • I agree. I don't wish to offend, but do you know of an article that adds authority, Greybeard? Commented Jul 26, 2022 at 9:57
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    I can find nothing that addresses this directly; "prefer ... rather than ..." is possible with all parts of speech but "prefer ... to ..." does not seem applicable to infinitives. I suspect that it is because nouns, adverbs and adjectives (the latter in this construction) all have something of the substantive about them and can accept a preposition (to), but infinitives as verbal objects are "too verbal" for a preposition.
    – Greybeard
    Commented Jul 26, 2022 at 12:19
  • The problem with an article with authority is that often those who answer have more of it. That's the main problem with this entire site. "The other" is not always right.
    – Lambie
    Commented Jul 26, 2022 at 15:18

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