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I am confused about how to make "would rather" past tense when the preference itself is in the past. For instance, take this example:

"She was furious. She would rather he had told her about the money earlier."

This was in the past. She is no longer furious and doesn't hold that preference any more, so how do I show that?Do I need to write "She would have rather" here to convey the sense that the preference was in the past?

The best source I can find on the subject is this: https://dictionary.cambridge.org/grammar/british-grammar/would-rather-would-sooner . However, even this doesn't address my specific concern. It simply says to use the past perfect in the second clause—as I have done in my example—when the two clauses have different subjects and the action of the second clause is in the past. But I don't feel as though that conveys precisely what I mean.

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Here is a better resource for you to consider.

https://ygdp.yale.edu/phenomena/verbal-rather


The following is grammatical, but as the resource above explains, this construction is quite variable in everyday use, the verb "prefer" being more frequently used.

"She was furious. She would have rathered him (to) tell her about the money earlier."

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JJDouglasDo I need to write "She would have rather" here to convey the sense that the preference was in the past?

Yes. It's not a very common usage, but it does exist.

Found online:

I would have rather stayed on the cruiser forever.
They would have rather lost all their worldly goods.
I would have rather been outside running in the woods.

would have rathered is used even less often — much less often. I strongly recommend against it.

I would have rathered you never knew.

CJ

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Thank you for the answer. I suppose I never considered writing "rathered" because I thought it was incorrect to use it as a verb in that way.

If I were to use "prefer" instead, does it matter what tense the following clause is in? I get the impression that there is a lot of flexibility and I can use any of the following:

"She would have preferred him to tell her about the money earlier."

"She would have preferred (that) he tell her about the money earlier."

"She would have preferred (that) he told her about the money earlier."

"She would have preferred (that) he had told her about the money earlier."

JJDouglas"She would have preferred (that) he tell her about the money earlier."

It is a general preference in the past.

JJDouglas"She would have preferred (that) he had told her about the money earlier."

It is a preference in the past concerning a specific prior action that was not appealing or acceptable.


This construction is not used very much, so I hope that CJ and others will weigh in with their insights.

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So would you say that "would have preferred him to..." is more commonly used than "would have preferred that he..."?

 CalifJim's reply was promoted to an answer.
JJDouglasIf I were to use "prefer" instead, does it matter what tense the following clause is in?

I did a brief examination of examples found on fraze.it, and I noticed with some surprise that the preponderance of examples use the mandative (i.e., subjunctive) construction:

We would have preferred that Biebs prove his manhood with a passable mustache.
I would have preferred that he lie to me and tell me that he couldn't get hold of him.
They would have preferred that he stay in high school with his brother.


However, both the past and the past perfect are also used:

Paul would have preferred that his team took more time off the clock.
I would have preferred that you dedicated your spare time to some foreign language.
I would have preferred that it stretched end-to-end to make use of all available space.

He would have preferred that Zorn had been a part of it.
His bosses would have preferred that he had kept his mouth shut.
I would have preferred that they had played it straight.

I can't help but remark that I am not a great fan of the past tense in this construction. It's tolerable, but it doesn't always "sound right" to my ear.


would have preferred him to seems to be less used but possible:

Kaunda's people would have preferred him to step down gracefully instead of fighting to the bitter end.

CJ

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Thank you for this, CJ. It's interesting to know.


So, in summary, would you say that you prefer the mandative, or subjunctive, construction over the past and past perfect constructions?


I have to admit I'm surprised at how unpopular the "would have preferred him/her/them to" construction seems to be, as that's the one I thought was the most common and am likely to use as a default (the others are rather new to me). After doing some digging, I'm even found that some English users express a strong dislike of it, with some claiming it to be grammatically incorrect, which I think is going too far. May I ask if you personally find that construction to be too awkward or jarring?

JJDouglasThank you for the answer. I suppose I never considered writing "rathered" because I thought it was incorrect to use it as a verb in that way.

It is a matter of regional variation. I have used "would have rathered" without considering it might be ungrammatical. "would have rather", on the other hand seems wrong to me. The verb after the modal "would" needs to be inflected.

Rather is used in some dialects as a weak verb. There are some citations here:

https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/rather#Verb

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