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Would You Rather: A Guide to “Preferir” Conjugation in Spanish

Choose fast: strawberry or chocolate ice cream? Hot dogs or pizza? Rainy days or sunshine? Whatever you decide on, it’s great to be aware of what your preferences are! Nonetheless, it can be hard to express those preferences in a different language. In today’s article, we’re going to fix that by looking at the Spanish verb preferir, meaning “to prefer”. Once you’ve learned how to conjugate preferir properly, you can talk to anyone about why you chose mint chocolate chip ice cream instead (we support that). We’ll start by going over the basic rules of the verb preferir and why it can be hard to work with sometimes. Then, we’ll move on to preferir conjugation, where we’ll look at beginner, intermediate, and advanced verb tenses and conjugation tables. Finally, we’ll end on a fun note, exploring some hit Spanish and Latin American songs that use the verb preferir so that you can celebrate having worked your way through this article.

Let’s begin!

What Kind of Verb is Preferir?

Let’s start with an apology. If you’ve been reading a lot of these blog posts, you know we really like to take you through irregular Spanish verbs. Preferir is yet another irregular verb that is really important to know. So, if you don’t like irregular verbs, you might just have to grit your teeth through this, but preferir really is a valuable verb to know! If you do like working with these kinds of verbs, that’s great! You’re in for a slightly easier read this time, because preferir isn’t as challenging as other irregular verbs which we’ve already covered, like pedir, dormir, and salir. Each one of these posts has an attached Cloze Collection which you can use for extra practice, to really develop your irregular verb skills!

If this is your first time here, you might be asking “but what is an irregular verb and why does it seem hard?”. The truth is, it’s not that complicated. In Spanish, what makes a verb irregular is that its conjugation doesn’t follow the standard rules for verbs ending in -ar, -er, and -ir. Instead, it changes its stem differently according to various tenses and subjects. This is why you might find irregular verb conjugation challenging. Instead of being able to follow an intuitive pattern as you go, you might have to learn the rules of each separate verb by heart. Let me give you a concrete example:

The verb imprimir, meaning “to print”, is a regular verb. That means its stem “imprim” always remains the same no matter which tense and subject is being used to conjugate it. For instance, the “Yo/I” subject in the present tense is “yo imprimo”. Conversely, preferir’s stem changes depending on subject and tense, making it irregular. This means that you can’t rely on the verb’s stem “prefer” to remain the same no matter what. The same “Yo/I” subject in the present tense of preferir is “yo prefiero”, not “yo prefero”.

If that makes sense, you’re well on your way to mastering the preferir conjugation! Once you get used to memorizing irregular verbs, they’ll quickly become second nature.

What to Choose? The Different Meanings of Preferir

The meaning of preferir in Spanish is pretty-self explanatory. It just means, “to prefer”. However, it is worth knowing a few of the subtleties of the verb so that you can use it correctly.

Firstly, let’s look at an example sentence for the standard meaning of preferir (“to prefer”):

  • “Raúl prefiere dormir cuando no hace mucho calor” -> “Raúl prefers to sleep when it isn’t too hot”.

Now, let’s explore how preferir can also have a few subtleties. Firstly, in Spanish you can use the verb preferir to mean “choose” or “opt”, which would traditionally be covered by the verb escojer (to choose). That’s because in some situations, it is just as correct to say someone “preferred” to do something as it is to say someone “chose” to do something. Let me give you an example:

  • María prefirió coger la autopista para llegar a casa más rápido” -> “María opted to take the highway so she’d get home quicker”.

Finally, it is also worth knowing the Spanish term “de preferencia”, which means “preferably”, “preferential” and “of preference”. Let’s look at a few example sentences so you know how to use this term:

  • “De preferencia, pasaría la tarde leyendo en el patio.” -> “Preferably, I would spend the afternoon reading in the courtyard.”
  • Le dieron tratamiento de preferencia porque había ganado el premio Nobel” -> “She was given preferential treatment because she had won the Nobel prize”.
  • “El supermercado organizó sus productos por orden de preferencia” -> “The supermarket organized its products by order of preference.”

Now, let’s move onto actual conjugation!

Preferir Verbals

Verbals are a good starting point for learning conjugation because they often trip people up. That’s because despite their name, verbals don’t act like verbs in a sentence at all! Instead, verbals are when a verb is acting as a noun, adjective, or adverb in a sentence. It’s worth knowing these verbals in advance because they can be a bit tricky, but once you’ve wrapped your head around them, you can identify and use them easily. Today, we’re going to go over three of preferir’s verbals, el infinitivo (the infinitive), el gerundio (the gerund), and el participio (the participle).

Infinitivo (infinitive)

The infinitive of the verb “preferir” is just “preferir”. This might seem too easy at first, but it makes sense because it is used in sentences where preferir is just a qualifier for a different active verb.

For example: “Quisiera preferir el café sin azúcar, pero me encanta todo lo dulce.” means “I wish I preferred drinking coffee without sugar, but I love sweet things.” In this case, the acting verb is querer (to want/ to wish), not preferir.

Gerundio (gerund)

The gerund of “preferir” is “prefiriendo” (preferring). It is used when the active verb in a sentence is estar (to be), and preferir just gives the sentence a boost in meaning.

For example: “Últimamente, mi hijo está prefiriendo videojuegos más tranquilos”, meaning “Lately, my son prefers more relaxing video games”.

Participio (participle)

The participle of preferir is preferido (preferred), and it is used when the active verb in a sentence is “haber” (to have).

For example: “Antes habría preferido no votar, pero ahora creo que tengo que hacerlo.” means “Before, I would have preferred not to vote, but now I think I have to do it.” In this case, the verb haber is conjugated to habría (would have), and preferido remains the same no matter how haber is conjugated.

Even if you find verbals complicated, now that you’ve gotten through them, you’ll probably find the rest of preferir conjugation much easier, so well done for working on verbals first!

All-Levels Preferir Conjugation

Ok, now we can actually get to conjugation and verb tables! In the next few sections, we’ll explore lots of different verb tenses which are commonly used in Spanish, so that you can use preferir with confidence. They’re divided up by level, so you can stick to learning just the ones you’re comfortable with and come back later, or go through them all right now in one huge session!

Easy Pickings: Beginner Preferir Conjugation

Let’s start by going over beginner preferir conjugation. In the following table, you’ll find the present (presente) and future (futuro) tenses, as well as two different versions of the past tense, the perfect (perfecto), and the imperfect (imperfecto). You’ll be able to practice these in more depth and test your knowledge in the Cloze Collection at the end of the article.

Subject Presente (Present)



Perfecto (Perfect)



Imperfecto (Imperfect)


“was preferring”




“will prefer”

Yo (I) Prefiero Preferí Prefería Preferiré
Tu (You)


Vos (Latin America)




Preferiste Preferías Preferirás
El/Ella (He/She/It)


Usted (You, formal)

Prefiere Prefirió Prefería Preferirá
Nosotros (We) Preferimos Preferimos Preferíamos Preferiremos
Vosotros (You, plural)


Ustedes (Latin America)













Ellos/Ellas (They/Them) Prefieren Prefirieron Preferían Preferirán

Example Sentences for Beginner Conjugation

  • Present: “No me gusta madrugar, prefiero levantarme tarde. ” -> “I don’t like waking up early, I prefer to sleep in”.
  • Perfect: “Juan prefirió comer fruta de postre porque no le apetecía un helado.” -> “Juan preferred to have fruit for dessert because he didn’t feel like ice cream.”
  • Imperfect: “Cuando vivían en el centro, preferían andar al supermercado. Ahora usan el coche.” -> “When they lived in the city center, they preferred to walk to the supermarket. Now they take the car.”
  • Future: “Te aseguro que en cuanto salgas y sientas el calor, preferirás no llevar camisa de manga larga” -> “I assure you that as soon as you step outside and feel how hot it is, you’ll prefer not to be wearing a long-sleeve shirt.”

Balanced Choices: Preferir Conjugation for Intermediate Learners

How’d the easy verbs go? If you feel like you nailed them, let’s move onto slightly more difficult verb tenses, which are perfect for intermediate learners. In the following table, we’ll look at compound verb tenses. In Spanish, these compound tenses are created by combining the conjugated verb haber (to have) with preferir. Remember your verbals? Good! Because compound verb tenses only ever use the participle (participio) of preferir: preferido. The compound tenses we’ll look at today are called pretérito perfecto compuesto (compound perfect preterite), which deals with the present, pluscuamperfecto (pluperfect), which deals with the past, and futuro compuesto (future perfect), which deals with the future.

Subject Pretérito perfecto compuesto


(Compound Perfect Preterite)

“Have preferred”




“Had preferred”

Futuro Compuesto


(Future Perfect)

“Will have preferred”

Yo (I) He preferido Había preferido Habré preferido
Tu (You)


Vos (Latin America)

Has preferido Habías preferido Habrás preferido
El/Ella (He/She/It)


Usted (You, formal)

Ha preferido Había preferido Habrá preferido
Nosotros (We) Hemos preferido Habíamos preferido Habremos preferido
Vosotros (You, plural)


Ustedes (Latin America)

Habeís preferido


Han preferido

Habíais preferido


Habían preferido

Habréis preferido


Habrán preferido

Ellos/Ellas (Them) Han preferido Habían preferido Habrán preferido

Example Sentences for Intermediate Conjugation

  • Compound Perfect Preterite: “Me dijeron que había mucha gente en el cine, entonces he preferido ir otro día.” -> “I was told there were lots of people at the cinema, so I opted to go on a different day.”
  • Pluperfect: “Ya habíamos preferido cocinar pasta cuando Julia nos dijo que no comía queso.” -> We had already preferred to cook pasta when Julia told us that she didn’t eat cheese.”
  • Future Perfect: “¿Por qué no han llegado los abuelos? No sé, habrán preferido caminar en vez de pedir taxi.” -> “Why haven’t our grandparents arrived yet? I don’t know, they must have decided to walk instead of getting a taxi.”

Hard to Pick Just One: Advanced Preferir Conjugation

Still going strong? Amazing! Let’s give you a real challenge then: subjunctive tenses. The subjunctive is great for advanced learners because it deals with uncertainty, doubt, and potential. You use it for preferir when you mean to express what would happen if you were to prefer, or were to have preferred something. The following table will go over the present subjunctive (subjuntivo presente), the subjunctive imperfect preterite (subjuntivo pretérito imperfecto), and the future subjunctive (subjuntivo futuro).

Subject Present Subjunctive (subjuntivo presente)


“Prefer” (uncertain)

Subjunctive imperfect preterite (subjuntivo pretérito imperfecto)


“Were to have preferred”

Future Subjunctive


(Subjuntivo Futuro)

“Were to prefer”

Yo (I) Prefiera Prefiriera or Prefiriese Prefiriere
Tú (You)


Vos (Latin America)

Prefieras Prefirieras or Prefirieses Prefirieres
El/Ella (He/She/It)


Usted (Formal)

Prefiera Prefiriera or Prefiriese Prefiriere
Nosotros (We) Prefiramos Prefiriéramos or Prefiriésemos Prefiriéremos
Vosotros (You, plural)


Ustedes (Latin America)




Prefirierais or Prefirieseis


Prefirieran or Prefiriesen




Ellos/Ellas (Them) Prefieran Prefirieran or Prefiriesen Prefirieren

Example Sentences for Advanced Conjugation

  • Present Subjunctive: “No puedo salir por la tarde porque solo salgo del trabajo a las ocho. Avísame cuando prefieras salir de noche.” -> “I can’t go out in the evening because I only get off work at eight. Let me know whenever you feel like going out at night.”
  • Subjunctive Imperfect Preterite “Si prefiriéramos la comida picante, habríamos ido a un restaurante Mexicano” -> “If we preferred spicy food, we would have gone to a Mexican restaurant”
  • Future Subjunctive “Si prefirieres que te recoja más temprano, mándame un mensaje y ahí estaré.” -> “If you’d prefer for me to pick you up earlier, send me a message and I’ll be right there.”

If I Had a Choice: Conditional Preferir Conjugation

We’re almost done with learning how to conjugate preferir, but if you’re still up for a little more, the next two tables will teach you a few other useful tenses to know. The following section goes over the conditional tense, which is used to express what would happen if you had or would prefer something. Let’s learn two conditional tenses: standard conditional (condicional) and perfect conditional (condicional perfecto).

Subject Condicional



“Would prefer”

Condicional Perfecto (Perfect Conditional)


“Would have preferred”

Yo (I) Preferiría Habría preferido
Tu (You)


Vos (Latin America)




Habrías preferido
El/Ella (He/She/It)


Usted (You, formal)

Preferiría Habría preferido
Nosotros (We) Preferiríamos Habríamos preferido
Vosotros (You, plural)


Ustedes (Latin America)




Habríais preferido


Habrían preferido

Ellos/Ellas (They/Them) Preferirían Habrían preferido

Example Sentences for Conditional Conjugation

  • Conditional: “Preferirías que te llevara al parque o al centro comercial?” -> “Would you rather I take you to the park or the mall?”
  • Perfect Conditional: “Habría preferido llegar al trabajo un poco más temprano. Ahora tengo que quedarme hasta tarde y me voy a perder la fiesta de mis amigos.” -> “I would have preferred to arrive at work a bit earlier. Now I have to stay late and I’m going to miss my friends’ party.”

Tell Me What You Want: Imperative Preferir Conjugation

Let’s end these verb tables on an authoritative note by exploring how to use preferir to voice commands. For this, we use the imperative tense. A word of warning, though: The imperative of preferir isn’t often used in day to day speech. That’s because preferences are inherently individual, so it’s really hard to command someone to prefer something. However, it’s still worth knowing the imperative of this verb so that you can navigate preferir on the off-chance that one day you need to tell someone what to prefer because they’re not sure.

Subject Imperativo



“Prefer” (command)

Yo (I) Prefiero
Tu (You)


Vos (Latin America)




El/Ella (He/She/It)


Usted (You, formal)

Nosotros (We) Prefiramos
Vosotros (You, plural)


Ustedes (Latin America)




Ellos/Ellas (They/Them) Prefieran

Example Sentences for Imperative Conjugation

  • “Cuando estéis en el restaurante, preferid sentaros en la mesa al lado de la ventana”: -> “When you’re in the restaurant, you should prefer to sit at the table next to the window.”
  • “Hace mucho frío, prefiramos quedarnos al lado de la chimenea” -> “It’s really cold, let ‘s prefer to stay by the fireplace.”

Preferir Songs and their Meaning

You’ve done really well getting through all these verb tenses, and I hope you feel more confident with preferir conjugation now! To celebrate, let’s finish up with something a bit more fun to add some colour to your knowledge of Spanish. Lots of popular Spanish songs use the verb preferir in their titles and lyrics, so let me recommend some of them so you can explore their lyrics and learn why they used preferir in the first place. Here are some of the best ones:

  • Prefiero Ser Su Amante by María José: This song was a huge hit when it came out in 2012, and now has over 46 million streams on Spotify. Its sassy lyrics tell the story of a woman who is glad to be a man’s lover rather than being the woman he is cheating on. My favorite lyric? “La intuición no se equivoca, cuando sientes celos no estás loca, hoy entérate… yo soy la otra” -> “Intuition is never wrong, when you feel jealous you’re not crazy, so realize… I’m the other one.”

  • Me Prefieres a Mi by Arcangel and Don Omar: If you’re into Reggaeton, you’ll love this one. Another huge hit with nearly 41 million streams, this song features typically reggaeton themes and lyrics, is about a guy asking a girl to leave her boyfriend and be with him instead. Check these lyrics out: “Entonces mami deja el novio que tu tienes, dile que tú no lo quieres y que me prefieres a mi” -> “So baby leave that boyfriend you have, tell him you don’t love him and that you prefer me.”

  • La Preferida by Carlos Vives: Carlos Vives is huge. This Colombian singer and songwriter has made cumbia and Latin Rock hits from as early as 1986. La Preferida is a love song where Carlos is singing to his girlfriend, saying that though he’s had past relationships, she’s his favorite. Here are some lyrics: “Pero eres tú la preferida, la que más brilla, la que me ha dado lo mejor que hay en mi vida” -> “But you’re my favorite, the one who shines brightest, the one who has given me the best things in my life”.

Preferir Conjugation: Conclusion

In this article, you’ve really done a lot of legwork toward learning the fundamental rules around preferir conjugation at beginner, intermediate, and advanced levels. We also explored some of preferir’s verbals, and some of the ways the meanings of preferir can have slightly different nuances of meaning. Finally, we ended with some music, looking at some popular songs which use the verb preferir in their title and lyrics. Now, the real question is, would you prefer to leave it there for today, or do you want to develop your skills even more by trying out the specialized Cloze Collection that follows this article? Or, alternatively, look at the full lyrics for some of the songs we talked about and see if you can identify how and why they use preferir. Happy choosing!

Challenge yourself with Clozemaster

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