Preferir Conjugation in Spanish, Translation, and Examples

Businessman Selecting Tie
Él prefiere la corbata de rayas. (He prefers the striped tie).

Randy Faris / Getty Images

The verb preferir means to prefer. The two words are cognates, which means that their sound is similar and they have the same meaning, since they both come from the same Latin verb. Therefore, they are used in similar contexts. Whenever you would say that you would prefer something or that you would rather something in English, you can use the verb preferir in Spanish.

When talking about preferring to do something, the verb preferir in Spanish is followed by an infinitive verb, as in Prefiero comer en casa (I prefer to eat at home). However, preferir can also be followed by a noun, when talking about preferring one thing over another. For example, you can say Prefiero el frío que el calor (I prefer the cold over the heat).

Preferir Conjugation

The conjugation of preferir is irregular, because it is a stem-changing verb. This means that whenever the second e in the stem of the verb is found in a stressed syllable, it changes to another vowel. With preferir you have to be extra careful, because it changes sometimes to ie and sometimes to just i. For example, the first person present tense conjugation of preferir is prefiero, and the third person preterite conjugation of preferir is prefirió.

This article includes conjugations of preferir in the indicative mood (present, past, conditional, future), the subjunctive mood (present and past), the imperative mood, and other verb forms.

Present Indicative

Notice that in the present indicative tense, the stem change e to ie occurs in all the conjugations except nosotros and vosotros.

Yo prefiero Yo prefiero estudiar sola. I prefer to study alone.
prefieres Tú prefieres el frío que el calor. You prefer the cold over the heat.
Usted/él/ella prefiere Ella prefiere viajar en bus. She prefers to travel by bus.
Nosotros preferimos Nosotros preferimos la comida china. We prefer Chinese food.
Vosotros preferís Vosotros preferís el instructor anterior. You prefer the previous instructor.
Ustedes/ellos/ellas prefieren Ellos prefieren no salir de noche. They prefer not to go out at night.

Preterite Indicative

In Spanish there are two forms of the past tense: the preterite and the imperfect. The preterite is used to talk about completed actions in the past. Notice that the stem changes from e to i (not ie) in the third person conjugations (él/ella/usted, ellos/ellas/ustedes) of the preterite tense.

Yo preferí Yo preferí estudiar sola. I preferred to study alone.
preferiste Tú preferiste el frío que el calor. You preferred the cold over the heat.
Usted/él/ella prefirió Ella prefirió viajar en bus. She preferred to travel by bus.
Nosotros preferimos Nosotros preferimos la comida china. We preferred Chinese food.
Vosotros preferisteis Vosotros preferisteis el instructor anterior. You preferred the previous instructor.
Ustedes/ellos/ellas prefirieron Ellos prefirieron no salir de noche. They preferred not to go out at night.

Imperfect Indicative

The other past tense in Spanish is the imperfect tense, which is used to describe ongoing or repeated actions in the past. Preferir in the imperfect is usually translated to English as "used to prefer." Also, notice that there are no stem changes in the imperfect tense.

Yo prefería Yo prefería estudiar sola. I used to prefer to study alone.
preferías Tú preferías el frío que el calor. You used to prefer the cold over the heat.
Usted/él/ella prefería Ella prefería viajar en bus. She used to prefer to travel by bus.
Nosotros preferíamos Nosotros preferíamos la comida china. We used to prefer Chinese food.
Vosotros preferíais Vosotros preferíais el instructor anterior. You used to prefer the previous instructor.
Ustedes/ellos/ellas preferían Ellos preferían no salir de noche. They used to prefer not to go out at night.

Future Indicative

To conjugate the future tense, start with the infinitive form and add the future tense endings.

Yo preferiré Yo preferiré estudiar sola. I will prefer to study alone.
preferirás Tú preferirás el frío que el calor. You will prefer the cold over the heat.
Usted/él/ella preferirá Ella preferirá viajar en bus. She will prefer to travel by bus.
Nosotros preferiremos Nosotros preferiremos la comida china. We will prefer Chinese food.
Vosotros preferiréis Vosotros preferiréis el instructor anterior. You will prefer the previous instructor.
Ustedes/ellos/ellas preferirán Ellos preferirán no salir de noche. They will prefer not to go out at night.

Periphrastic Future Indicative 

Yo voy a preferir Yo voy a preferir estudiar sola. I am going to prefer to study alone.
vas a preferir Tú vas a preferir el frío que el calor. You are going to prefer the cold over the heat.
Usted/él/ella va a preferir Ella va a preferir viajar en bus. She is going to prefer to travel by bus.
Nosotros vamos a preferir Nosotros vamos a preferir la comida china. We are going to prefer Chinese food.
Vosotros vais a preferir Vosotros vais a preferir el instructor anterior. You are going to prefer the previous instructor.
Ustedes/ellos/ellas van a preferir Ellos van a preferir no salir de noche. They are going to prefer not to go out at night.

Present Progressive/Gerund Form

The progressive tenses are usually formed with the verb estar followed by the present participle or gerund, prefiriendo. Notice that in the gerund, the stem changes from e to i (and not to ie). However, the verb preferir is not often used in the present progressive form, since to prefer is usually not an ongoing action.

Present Progressive of Preferir está prefiriendo Ella está prefiriendo viajar en bus. She is preferring to travel by bus.

Past Participle

To conjugate perfect tenses like the present perfect, you need the auxiliary verb haber and the past participle, preferido.

Present Perfect of Preferir ha preferido Ella ha preferido viajar en bus. She has preferred to travel by bus.

Conditional Indicative

Like the future tense, the conditional tense is conjugated by starting with the infinitive form and adding the conditional endings.

Yo preferiría Yo preferiría estudiar sola. I would prefer to study alone.
preferirías Tú preferirías el frío que el calor. You would prefer the cold over the heat.
Usted/él/ella preferiría Ella preferiría viajar en bus. She would prefer to travel by bus.
Nosotros preferiríamos Nosotros preferiríamos la comida china. We would prefer Chinese food.
Vosotros preferiríais Vosotros preferiríais el instructor anterior. You would prefer the previous instructor.
Ustedes/ellos/ellas preferirían Ellos preferirían no salir de noche. They would prefer not to go out at night.

Present Subjunctive

Notice that the present subjunctive has the stem change e to ie in all of the conjugations except nosotros and vosotros, just like in the present indicative tense. However, the nosotros and vosotros conjugations also have a stem change, but simply from e to i.

Que yo prefiera El profesor recomienda que yo prefiera estudiar sola. The professor recommends that I prefer to study alone.
Que tú prefieras Tu padre espera que tú prefieras el frío que el calor. Your father hopes that you prefer the cold over the heat.
Que usted/él/ella prefiera El conductor espera que ella prefiera viajar en bus. The driver hopes that she prefer to travel by bus.
Que nosotros prefiramos Nuestros abuelos esperan que nosotros prefiramos la comida china. Our grandparents hope that we prefer Chinese food.
Que vosotros prefiráis Perla espera que vosotros prefiráis el instructor anterior. Perla hopes that you prefer the previous instructor. 
Que ustedes/ellos/ellas prefieran Sus padres esperan que ustedes prefieran no salir de noche. Your parents hope that you prefer not to go out at night.

Imperfect Subjunctive

There are two options for conjugating the imperfect subjunctive. Notice that both options have the stem change e to i.

Option 1

Que yo prefiriera El profesor recomendaba que yo prefiriera estudiar sola. The professor recommended that I prefer to study alone.
Que tú prefirieras Tu padre esperaba que tú prefirieras el frío que el calor. Your father hoped that you prefer the cold over the heat.
Que usted/él/ella prefiriera El conductor esperaba que ella prefiriera viajar en bus. The driver hoped that she prefer to travel by bus.
Que nosotros prefiriéramos Nuestros abuelos esperaban que nosotros prefiriéramos la comida china. Our grandparents hoped that we prefer Chinese food.
Que vosotros prefirierais Perla esperaba que vosotros prefirierais el instructor anterior. Perla hoped that you prefer the previous instructor. 
Que ustedes/ellos/ellas prefirieran Sus padres esperaban que ustedes prefirieran no salir de noche. Your parents hoped that you prefer not to go out at night.

Option 2

Que yo prefiriese El profesor recomendaba que yo prefiriese estudiar sola. The professor recommended that I prefer to study alone.
Que tú prefirieses Tu padre esperaba que tú prefirieses el frío que el calor. Your father hoped that you prefer the cold over the heat.
Que usted/él/ella prefiriese El conductor esperaba que ella prefiriese viajar en bus. The driver hoped that she prefer to travel by bus.
Que nosotros prefiriésemos Nuestros abuelos esperaban que nosotros prefiriésemos la comida china. Our grandparents hoped that we prefer Chinese food.
Que vosotros prefirieseis Perla esperaba que vosotros prefirieseis el instructor anterior. Perla hoped that you prefer the previous instructor. 
Que ustedes/ellos/ellas prefiriesen Sus padres esperaban que ustedes prefiriesen no salir de noche. Your parents hoped that you prefer not to go out at night.

Imperative

To give orders or commands you need the imperative mood. However, for the verb preferir, the commands might sound somewhat awkward, since it is not common to command someone to prefer something. Also, notice that all the commands have the stem change e to either ie or i.

Positive Commands

prefiere ¡Prefiere el frío que el calor! Prefer the cold over the heat!
Usted prefiera ¡Prefiera viajar en bus! Prefer to travel by bus!
Nosotros prefiramos ¡Prefiramos la comida china! Let's prefer Chinese food!
Vosotros preferid ¡Preferid al instructor anterior! Prefer the previous instructor!
Ustedes prefieran ¡Prefieran no salir de noche! Prefer not to go out a night!

Negative Commands

no prefieras ¡No prefieras el frío que el calor! Don't prefer the cold over the heat!
Usted no prefiera ¡No prefiera viajar en bus! Don't prefer to travel by bus!
Nosotros no prefiramos ¡No prefiramos la comida china! Let's not prefer Chinese food!
Vosotros no prefiráis  ¡No prefiráis al instructor anterior! Don't prefer the previous instructor!
Ustedes no prefieran ¡No prefieran no salir de noche! Don't prefer not to go out a night!