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Based on the instruction in this website, I can come up with some following sentences:

  1. I would prefer to drink tea rather than to drink coffee.

  2. I'd prefer to drink tea rather than drink coffee.

  3. I'd prefer to drink tea rather than coffee.

  4. I'd prefer to drink tea to coffee.

  5. I'd prefer tea to coffee.

  6. I'd prefer tea rather than coffee.

  7. I'd prefer tea.

I think (4) is wrong, (1), (2) & (7) are definitely right. But not sure (3), (5) & (6).

So, which one is correct?

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    It's "prefer (liked thing) to (less liked thing)". Use #5: "I'd prefer tea to coffee." – Lawrence Sep 8 '16 at 10:02
  • 7 is different. It can mean "I'd prefer tea to chocolate but coffee is the best". Both 4 and 5 could be changed to have "... tea over coffee". – AdrianHHH Sep 8 '16 at 12:05
  • As a native speaker of American English, I can say that they all sound fine (except #4) and they all are grammatical, but I would rarely say #4. The structure of #4 sounds a bit weird to me, but it is grammatical. Maybe it's British English or some other dialect. – Alan Carmack Sep 9 '16 at 1:39
  • @AlanCarmack: not BrE. The two different meanings of to are what make it sound weird. – JavaLatte Dec 8 '16 at 18:59
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All of the sentences are grammatically correct and all except sentence 4 sound natural.

Sentences 1 to 3 are made up of two clauses separated by rather than: they vary only in the amount of ellipsis- the elimination of duplicated words in the second clause. Sentence 6 is similar, but without the to drink.

Sentence 5 uses to for the comparison, which is fine when comparing two similar things (tea and coffee), but fails when you use a to-infinitive in the first clause, as in sentence 4. The two different usages of to make the sentence sound unnatural. Replacing it with a gerund eliminates the problem:

I prefer drinking tea to coffee. Cambridge Dictionary

Sentence 7 is OK and natural but has a reduced meaning: it doesn't say what you don't prefer.

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The website states that #2 is correct, and preferred over #1 (the 'to' is optional, since it is implied).

Since 'drink' applies to both beverages, it's not often repeated, so #3 becomes the one most often used in conversation, leaving 'to drink' implied for coffee.

  • are you a native American? – Tom Sep 8 '16 at 15:18
  • @Tom: yep. And having read this, and my answer, over again, as a native speaker, I would make the assumption that 'to drink' is normally the only real thing you would do with either tea or coffee, so I would have said 'I prefer tea over coffee'. – user3235770 Sep 9 '16 at 15:45
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All 7 are correct, in that they are grammatically well formed English and express somewhat the same idea. All probably have been used by native speakers at some point.

In conversation the shorter is often more common if the missing elements can be deduced from context.

Would you like tea or coffee?

I'd prefer tea.

Seems the shortest, Or even just

Tea, please.

Would be acceptable.

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