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I know "prefer" can be used this way,

I would however prefer that you got as much advice as possible from the books first.

But when it comes to this one,

What would you prefer (that) they say?

in which obviously "what" serves as the object of "say", a verb located in a subordinate noun clause.

Tons of examples of this sentence can be found, but is this usage grammatical or standard?

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If by saying 'What would you prefer they say?' you mean 'What would you want them to say?' then I suppose it is grammatically correct.

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