Today my teacher said that the correct preposition to use after prefer (smth ___ smth else) is "to". E.G.: I prefer playing soccer to swimming. Afterwards I asked if "prefer smth over smth" is possible too and she replied that it's wrong to say "over" after "prefer". I am just wondering if it really can be used because I saw it used so many times that it seemed to me completely correct. Any ideas? ThanksEmotion: smile
I think your teacher is correct.

"I prefer tea to coffee." is more right than "I prefer tea over coffee".

But if the "wrong" form is used for a long time, it will become as right form as the predecessor.
It's a matter of register. "to" is in a higher register than "over". Your teacher is encouraging you to use the language of a higher register. Other than that, both are used all the time.

For questions about register, Yet
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You are right CalifJim. That didn't come to my mind.
Hello M88 and other people

I got interested in why 'to' is used in the phrase "prefer A to B".

The verb prefer came into English in 14 c from French.
The sense of "prefer A to B" is 'set/hold A before/above B in favor or esteem'.
And so "prefer A before/above B" was more idiomatic than "prefer A to B" at least before 17 c.
(EX1) Before worldly things prefer thou the honour of God [Atkinson 1502]
(EX2) I prefer decrees before the scriptures [Daius 1560].
(EX3) We may justly prefer it before other parts of the world [Morden 1680]
(EX4) There was one place he preferred above all others [Moore 1883]

It is likely "prefer A to B" was first used in Boyle's 'Style of Script' (1661)
(EX5) He should not scruple to prefer the end to the means [Boyle 1661]
(EX6) He preferred living like a Grecian to dying like a Roman [Crocker 1815]

I guess the use of 'prefer A to B' was started by some pedantic people who knew French.
In French they say like; Il faut préférer l'honnête à l'utile.

I suppose we might have known! The historically French expressions are now being preferred over the English! Tsk, tsk, tsk!
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Hello Paco

I wonder whether the change you note has something to do with:

a) contrast with the use of 'prefer' to mean 'promote';
b) the fact that 'prefer' already contains 'before' (Latin, 'prae' = before + 'ferre').

Just a thought.

Hello Mr P

Yeah you are right.
I read OED again and found the Latin praeferer means 'bear before'.

And the oldest use of 'prefer' quoted in OED was indeed used in the sense of 'promote'.
In this degree he neither prefers nor makes himself with the truth.[Wyclif 1388]

Hey everyone,
thanks for the useful information you provided.Emotion: smile
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