I'm reading a section on the usage of would rather and have come across would rather like. Swan says there is a difference between them. Ok, 'would rather' means 'would prefer...' and it's clear. But would rather like means 'would quite like'. For instance, (from M. Swan):

I'd rather like a cup of coffee.

Providing that 'rather' = 'quite' here, what does the sentence mean?

1 Answer 1


(Found it. It's in Unit 491 ("Rather: preference") of Swan's "Practical English Usage".)

Imagine a situation when two persons walk past a café. One of them notices the café, stops and says:

I'd rather like a cup of coffee now!

He is not making a choice among different kinds of drink. He merely means that it would be a great idea to go in so he could have a cup of cofee. He is not expressing his preference to coffee in comparison with red wine, say, because there's no red wine on offer at the moment.

Then our two friends enter the cafe, and he sees a wide selection of different caffeinated beverages, among them a great chocolate icecream cocktail. He says:

On the other hand, I'd rather have that chocolate icecream cocktail.

Now, he is expressing his preference to one drink among a whole range of the available items.

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    Let me ask you a question why you add 'have' to 'come across' in the question and why you apply indirect order in what does the sentence mean. We use direct word order for indirect questions, does we? Oct 5, 2014 at 5:35
  • I added have because otherwise I'd have to change come to the simple past ('preterite') form came. The past participle come needs another verb in front of it. Oct 5, 2014 at 5:43
  • As to why I changed "what that sentence means?" to "what does the sentence mean?", I'm not qualified to reply at the moment. Your sentence seemed grammatical but clumsy, so I tried to improve it for readability's sake. Thanks for the question, now I'll have the reason to read up on terminology. Oct 5, 2014 at 5:47
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    As I understand, an indirect question would sound like "Provided that 'rather' means 'quite', can you tell me what is the meaning of the sentence?" bbc.co.uk/worldservice/learningenglish/flatmates/episode46/… Oct 5, 2014 at 5:53
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    Thank you for your answers. I would like to clarify one more thing. Can we substitute Providing you correct in the last sentence to Taking into account? Oct 5, 2014 at 6:38

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