Formula of rejection

Could you explain the difference (or give some examples to clear it) for:

  1. I had rather not…
  2. I would rather not…

The second question is:

When you meet I’d rather not which of the above two you guess/suppose?


hi Tamara,

Back to the old can of worms, is it then? You asked;

To me they both indicate a preference or non-preference in your examples. The first one pointing to the past and the second one to the future.

You could say: In view of the unpleasantness that followed, I had rather not gone to that meeting. That suggests you would have preferred (but you did go) not to have gone to the meeting.

Following on:

In view of what happened at the meeting last time, I would rather not go to the meeting tomorrow. That suggests your preference now is not to go.

Your next point as to which is which if you say I’d rather (is it I had or I would?), you can see from the rest of the sentence - past participle (after I had) or infinitive (after I would)

Hope this is of use.


Hi Alan

Thank you.

Yes, that’s a thing from that can…

(And, note, I didn’t and don’t ask a word about ‘I should rather’ : ) Nor, even more so, whether ‘I shouldn’t rather’ is possible, somewhere.)

Going back to the worm…

The history of my question is simple: when I was looking for a suitable translation of a some Russian saying, an online dictionary gave me both (I had and I would) forms as equivalent. Supporting that by the example I had rather start at oncefor the present-future.

Certainly, first, I was very surprised (being sure, that ‘had’ always refer to the past), but admitted that, as a search machine brought me an online grammar book where the phrase
I had rather work with Williams than work for him. is given with comment: ‘Language critics once condemned this use of had as a mistake. In truth the mistake was their own…’ and then it refers to use of ‘had better’ and ‘had best’…

At this point I (as a learner with worms-of-some-kind-in-brain – you already know that) became in a great need of a qualified help and cleanse.
And asked my second question. :slight_smile:

P.S. If in your opinion such use of ‘had rather not’ (for the present-future) is an exception that you don’t recommend to anyone to use, I never will.


Hi Tamara,

I can only say that when I hear a sentence beginning: I had rather, I anticipate a past action. Your example:

sounds odd to me. There is a sense in me that wants to hear: I had rather have worked

As for it being a mistake or not, well that’s a murky area. If I condemn it, no doubt Madam Google will reprimand me.


Thanks a lot, Alan.

For me your opinion is quite enough (= fully, entirely, completely :slight_smile: ) and I’ll never use ‘had rather not’ for the present-future.

P.S. Alan, you’re the first (for me) who said Madam Google (I usually see ‘Mr. Google’).


I meant “We had better leave now.”

And the text
(I never saw this ‘online grammar book’ before. Maybe, fortunately :slight_smile: )

Just a note for Pamela: this was the result of my try to translate the Russian expression
" пожалуй, не стоит" / “я, пожалуй, не…” with