This discussion came up in another group. I thought I’d share my reply here.
When using “than”, a TRUE comparison between two things requires the verb “to be”:
- Pattern: A is ____ than B.
- He is taller than I am.
- She is prettier this year than she was last year.
- This is more expensive than that.
- That is less expensive than this.
- I am taller than he is.
- Day is brighter than night.
- They were faster than we were.
- You are hungrier than I am.
- That is as expensive as this. (For equals, we use “as _____ as”)
When the verb is NOT “to be”, then it may NOT be a true comparison. For example, the following comparison patterns apply to the verb “to prefer”:
- Pattern 1: Bob prefers ____ to ____. (gerunds required=> -ing)
- Pattern 2:Bob prefers to ____ rather than to ____. (infinitives with ‘to’)
- Pattern 3:Bob would rather _____ than _____. (bare infinitives; no ‘to’)
- I prefer reading to listening.
- I prefer to read rather than to listen.
- I would rather read than listen.
- I prefer sitting to standing.
- I prefer to sit rather than to stand.
- I would rather sit than stand.
When the verb is “to like”, then the following comparison pattern applies:
- I like A ___ than B.
- I like A more than B.
- I like B less than A.
- I like A just as much as B. (For equals, we use “as _____ as”)
So what do I mean by a “true” comparison. The sentences with “prefer” and “like” are NOT comparing A to B. They are comparing the degree to which I like those two things.
To explain why I prefer one to the other (or one over the other), I must compare A and B to each other using the verb “to be”, as follows: (the TRUE comparison is in [ ])
- I like reading more than listening because [reading is slower than listening.]
- I prefer sitting to standing because [standing is more tiring than sitting.]
To prefer A to B is more common but in American English you may also hear us say to prefer A over B. Same meaning.