Rather than is normally used in parallel structures: for example with two adjectives, adverbs, nouns, infinitives or -ing forms. When the main clause has a to-infinitive, rather than is normally followed by an infinitive without to. An -ing form is also possible.
- I would prefer to leave now rather than wait.
- You ought to admit your crime rather than defend it.
- I would prefer to go in August rather than in July.
- I decided to write rather than phone/phoning. (NOT …than to phone)
Would rather means ‘would prefer to’. It is followed by an infinitive without to.
- Would you rather stay here or go home? (=Would you prefer to stay here or go home.)
Would rather + subject + past tense
We can use would rather to say that one person would prefer another or others to do something. We use a special structure with a past tense.
- Don’t come today, I would rather you came tomorrow. (=I would prefer you to come tomorrow.)
- I would rather you posted this letter. (= I would like you to post this letter.)
To talk about past actions, a past perfect tense is possible.
- I would rather you hadn’t done that. (= I wish you hadn’t done that.)