There are different ways we can ask about preferences. 



Expressing specific preference:

When we speak about a specific preference,would rather and would prefer have the same meaning and are interchangeable.


We went to the theatre yesterday. Today I would rather go to the cinema.
We went to the theatre yesterday. Today I would prefer to go to the cinema.


Expressing general preference

When we talk about general preferences, we can use prefer or would rather


prefer walking to cycling.
would rather walk than cycle.


Would rather can be abbreviated to 'd rather.

Would prefer can be abbreviated to 'd prefer.

I'd rather go to the cinema.
I'd prefer to go to the cinema.


Difference in form:

Followed by a different verb form:

“I prefer walking to cycling.” (followed by the gerund; the '-ing' ending)
“I'd prefer to go to the cinema.” (followed by the infinitiveto+ the verb)
“I would rather walk than cycle.” (followed by the base form of the verb; the verb without 'to'.

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