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Look at this example below

I prefer to choose money over happiness

In this example, prefer is the main verb which takes 'to' appropriate preposition. with it. Now if we use 'choose' (as an infinitive in this case) or any other verb after it, the next preposition will be used according to that verb or according to 'prefer' as it is the main verb?

  • You prefer X over Y, or you chose X over Y. – Lucian Sava Aug 12 '19 at 22:43
  • @LucianSava or you prefer X to Y. Or, in this case, you just prefer X, and X is "to choose money over happiness." – phoog May 22 at 6:40
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If you're trying to say that money is more important than happiness to you, it should be:

I prefer money over happiness.

or

I choose money over happiness.

The construction "prefer to choose" is too convoluted for what I think you mean. Literally interpreted, your sentence indicates that you would choose money and not happiness, even if you had the option to have both.

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First, your example sentence is a little redundant. Typically, we'd say either:

I prefer money over happiness.

or:

I choose money over happiness.

This isn't to say your example is ungrammatical; however, it would be unusual to see, except perhaps in a special context, such as:

Most people choose happiness over money, but I prefer to choose money over happiness.


That all said, your question seems to be about picking the proper preposition based on two preceding verbs.

Unfortunately, that's not so simple, either.

Don't fall into the trap of thinking about prepositions too formulaically. Selecting the "next preposition" is rarely (if ever) so easy; it's not like we can say, "I'm using the verb prefer, so the next preposition I will use is over." In fact, there are a range of possibilities, depending on what the speaker or author is trying to express.

For example:

  • I prefer to skip breakfast on Sundays.
  • I prefer choosing money instead of happiness.
  • I'd prefer to choose money for my main goal in life.
  • Some might want a diverse stock portfolio; I'd prefer to choose money in the bank.
  • Some people like to put their money in bank; I prefer to choose money under my mattress.
  • You're asking me to pick a lullaby in the morning; I'd prefer to choose a lullaby at night.
  • Most people take the G.W. Bridge; I prefer to choose the Tappan Zee Bridge to cross the river.

Granted, some of those may sound a little awkward, but I was trying to show the different ways the already-awkward "prefer to choose" might be used with different prepositions.

Normally, though, I think most would say the mattress sentence something like this:

Some people like to put their money in bank; I prefer to put my money under the mattress.

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  • Thank you for your detailed answer. One simple question though I learned that prefer always takes 'to' as appropriate prep. In that case, I thought "I prefer money to happiness" is grammatical only. Can it take 'over' as appropriate prep as well?? – Ritwik Bhattacharyya Aug 14 '19 at 14:54
  • Beware of any source claiming that a particular verb "always" takes one preposition and never any other. Yes, you can prefer one thing over another: have a look at some examples. – J.R. Aug 14 '19 at 19:07
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    But notice that the to of your to choose is not a preposition, and has nothing to do with the to of prefer money to happiness. It is the to that marks a to-infinitive clause, which happens to be one of the objects that prefer can take. – Colin Fine Jan 22 at 16:14
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Prefer takes a direct object. That direct object can be an infinitive verb in "to infinitive" form ("I prefer to choose"). It can also be a gerund ("I prefer choosing") or a noun ("I prefer sandals").

Normally, if you're also mentioning the thing you don't prefer, you use "to" ("I prefer sandals to boots"). But in the example sentence, I would argue that "over" is related to "choose" rather than to "prefer." That is, the direct object of "prefer" is the entire infinitive phrase "to choose money over happiness." This explains why you can't use "to" in place of "over": it is not idiomatic to say "choose money to happiness," so it is not idiomatic to say "I prefer to choose money to happiness." But you can say "I prefer money to happiness."

As noted in the comments, it's not unheard of to say something like "I prefer sandals over boots," but traditionally is should indeed be "to."

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