Would rather is used to express a preference in English. Would rather is the same in meaning as would prefer. These two phrases are used interchangeably to express a preference when making a choice. Here are some examples of short conversations that use would rather to either state or ask for a preference.
John: Let's go out tonight.
Mary: That's a good idea.
John: How about going to a film? There's a new film out with Tom Hanks.
Mary: I'd rather go out for dinner. I'm hungry!
Sue: I'm not sure which topic to choose for my essay.
Debby: Well, what are your choices?
Sue: I can write about the economy or about a book.
Debby: Which would you rather write about?
Would Rather - Structure
The form would rather is a little strange because 'rather' is not a verb but is part of an expression that means 'would prefer to'. 'Rather' is usually immediately followed by a verb in base form (verb without 'to'). It's common to use would rather in the shortened 'd rather form in positive statements. All subjects take 'would rather'. Would rather can be used to refer to the present moment or a future moment in time.
Subject + would rather ('d rather) + base form of verb
Peter'd rather spend time on the beach.
I would rather learn a new language than study math.
Would + subject + rather + base form of verb
Would you rather stay at home?
Would they rather do homework tomorrow morning?
Would Rather - Than
Would rather is often used with 'than' with two verbs or objects when making a choice between two specific actions.
Would you rather work for Tom than for Mary?
She would rather play tennis than go horseback riding.
Would Rather - For Other People
Would rather is also used to express what one person prefers another person to do. The structure is unusual because it takes the past for the preferred action. Here are some examples:
Tom would rather Mary bought a SUV.
Would you rather she stayed here with us?
Subject + would rather ('d rather) + object + past tense
I would rather my son worked in finance.
Susan would rather Peter took a plane.
Would + subject + rather + object + past tense
Would she rather her sister flew home tomorrow?
Would you rather he came with us to the meeting?
Subject + would rather ('d rather) + object + negative past tense
I'd rather she didn't come with us today.
Tim would rather Peter didn't join the company.