2

I'd rather you didn't go to work tomorrow, and took care of the baby.

I'd rather you don't go to work tomorrow, and take care of the baby.

Are both the sentences grammatically correct?

What verb tense do we follow "rather" with when talking about present/future situations?

  • 1
    This is a very odd construction and doesn't make the preferences clear at all... You need to have something else... "and, instead, stayed home to take care of the baby"... Or, "I'd rather you stay home and take care of the baby tomorrow than go to work." – Catija Aug 15 '16 at 16:26
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This is a mood difference, not just a verb tense difference.

Subjunctive

of or relating to the verb form that is used to express suggestions, wishes, uncertainty, possibility, etc.

Your first sentence expresses a wish, a wish that someone does not go to work. This expression is achieved by switching the tense to the past.

The second sentence is more of a command because it remains in the present tense.

Examples:

I would rather we ate turkey for Thanksgiving.

vs

I would rather we eat turkey for Thanksgiving.

The first sentence is quite vulnerable, it's a suggestion, it's an opinion, it's a wish. While the second sentence is more asserting, demanding, obligatory.

If I had wings

If frogs ate zebras

If ants were people

These are all phrases that express a probability, possibility and doubt, and are therefore considered subjunctive phrases.

On the other hand,

If I have wings

If frogs eat zebras

If ants are people

All of these phrases are in the present tense so the doubt is gone.

If frogs eat zebras, they become giraffes.

Even though the above sentence doesn't describe something that is naturally possible, it is in the present tense, and it assumes the reader knows that frogs are capable of eating zebras.

1

When you use would rather, you are expressing a wish. We express wishes using a backshift- you switch the tense one back to the past.

I know the answer
I wish I knew the answer

When there is an auxiliary verb involved, then (with some exceptions- see the document about backshifts) we backshift the auxiliary verb:

I don't feel tired
I wish I didn't feel tired

You asked about the future: will becomes would, although I can't think of a situation where you would use future with would rather.

You will go away
I wish you would go away

Your sentence is actually an imperative, not a future. An imperative (order) backshifts to simple past: note that you have to insert a pronoun in the backshifted version. The two clauses in your sentences don't go together too well (see Catija's comment), so I have separated them in order to provide a complete answer about the verb tense:

Don't go to work tomorrow
I'd rather you didn't go to work tomorrow

Take care of the baby
I'd rather you took care of the baby.

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    What verb tense do we follow "rather" with when talking about present/future situations? +1 @JavaLatte – P. E. Dant Aug 15 '16 at 17:21
  • 1½ questions, then! Have you had a look at dockeryZ's below, @JavaLatte ? He's spot on about the subjunctive here (see e.g. this,) although the frogs' diet is somewhat alarming. – P. E. Dant Aug 15 '16 at 17:52
  • @P.E.Dant, I hesitate to use the term subjunctive unless the OP's question includes were. A backshift works for nearly everything- even (informally) is- so why complicate matters? – JavaLatte Aug 15 '16 at 17:52
  • @JavaLatte I'd rather there were a were too ... but would rather/sooner +didn't is presented here as an example of past subj. – P. E. Dant Aug 15 '16 at 18:10
-2

These are the formally grammatical ways to express it:

1) I'd rather you didn't go to work tomorrow, and took care of the baby. RIGHT

2) I'd rather you don't go to work now, and take care of the baby. RIGHT

BUT NOTE: people often say: I'd rather you don't go to work tomorrow and take care of the baby. They say it to express 2) above. It's OK.

The simple past is used to express a future event. It is LIKE: If you went to work, you couldn't take care of the baby. If you didn't go to work, you wouldn't take care of the baby.

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