A teacher's note for the lesson on expressing preferences with "like ... better than..." says that "It is also possible to use an infinitive after like; the text presents only the gerund pattern here. Using an infinitive with like ... better than can lead to awkward sentences and confusion with placement of the to. Native speakers would be likely to avoid such structures and, therefore, they aren't presented here.

Recommended Pattern in the text:

1. I like tea better than coffee. (Like NOUN better than NOUN)

2. I like drinking tea better than drinking coffee. (Like GERUND better than GERUND)

My question is: why would the infinitive be awkward?

3. I like to drink tea better than to drink coffee.

4. I like to drink tea better than drink coffee. (no need to repeat the "to")

5. I like to drink tea better than coffee. (no need to repeat the same verb)

Are sentences 3, 4, and 5 awkward as the teacher's note above suggests?

I can understand why prefer X to Y has to be a gerund and NOT an infinitive because of the "to" already in the sentence.

6. I prefer tea to coffee. OR (NOUN to NOUN)

7. I prefer drinking tea to drinking coffee. (GERUND to GERUND)

*8a. I prefer to drink tea to   to drink coffee. (Awfully bad structure because of the preposition to and even if we delete the second infinitive to, it will still be bad: *8b. I prefer to drink tea to   drink coffee.)

 

But (If we choose to use an infinitive, we will need to change "to" to "rather than":

9. I prefer to drink tea rather than  to drink coffee.

10. I prefer to drink tea rather than  drink coffee. (repetitive to deleted)

11. I prefer to drink tea rather than  coffee. (repetitive to drink deleted)

 

I hope my analysis of "prefer X to Y" is accurate. If so, we can focus on the question: 

Why would the infinitive be awkward with "like X better than Y"?

Source: Fundamentals of English Grammar, 4th edition

 

Original Post

Hi, Hussain,

What your teacher must have told you is that "than" + to-infinitive does not sound right. We expect a noun, a gerund or a bare infinitive, NOT a full infinitive, after than.

On page 204 of Fundamentals of English Grammar, 4th Edition, we can read the following in chart 7-15:

(g) I'd rather visit a big city than live there.

(h) INCORRECT: I'd rather visit a big city than to live there.

You should stick to the patterns in chart 7-15:

(a) prefer + noun + to + noun: I prefer tea to coffee.

(b) prefer -ing verb + to-ing verb: I prefer drinking tea to drinking coffee (In this case, the repetition of "drinking" could be avoided by using pattern (a).)

(c) like + noun + better than + noun: I like tea better than coffee.

(d) like-ing verb + better than-ing verb: I like drinking tea better than drinking coffee (The same comment made above regarding the example under (b) applies here.)

Thanks Gustavo.

I have another question. Can we add "would" to the "like ... better" structure and get a future preference instead of a general preference:

1. Would you like coffee or tea?

A: I would like coffee better than tea. (a statement about a specific preference for a specific situation).

B: I like coffee better than tea. (general preference, past and present)

No, Hussain. I'd say the following to state a current choice or decision:

C: I'd like coffee.

or

D: I'd like coffee rather than/instead of tea. (esp. if tea seems to be imposed on you)

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