Do you prefer “prefer to” to “prefer over”?

News reading is fun, especially when someone is as nerdy and hungry as me. I love reading and I love knowing. It keeps me abreast of the world around me. Reading is a joy. But not when it is penned down in incorrect English.

I read several newspapers, magazines, blogs, websites and journals online. My favourite, as you might have gleaned from the string of posts in the recent past, is The Economist, which offers intellectual insights into the globe. Business, economics, art, science, people profiles et all… It’s all there in impeccable English, fit for GRE/GMAT aspirants.

But when prominent newspapers err on their English, it pains me. I’m not even talking about complex sentences that make up paragraphs and minor omissions of commas; I’m talking about the wrong idiomatic usage in basic sentences.

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Source: Long Ridge Editors Blog

Here’s what I mean. In this Economic Times article on Q3 results of Tata Consultancy Services, they use “prefer over” not once, but twice !!!

Despite slight disappointment on revenues and operation profit, analysts remain confident of TCS’s strong performance in the long run and prefer the stock over Infosys.

Initially, I thought it was a typo that missed the attention of the writer/editor once. But when it happened again a couple of paragraphs later, it was evident to me that this is not a typo but ignorance.

Here is the second case.

They have raised their target price based on 20x 1-year roll forward EPS (up to Dec-15) or INR130. We continue to prefer TCS over Infosys, added the report by Nomura.

Now, if the report by Nomura has the line which “prefers TCS over Infosys”, then it is a sadder state of affairs as neither Nomura nor Economic Times seems to follow the proper idiomatic usage. The appropriate use of “prefer to”, no matter how weird it may sound to the ear, should supersede the incorrect use of “prefer over”, even if the latter sounds more convincingly pleasant to the ear.

I did not (and do not) expect this from The Economic Times, one of the most prestigious and acclaimed sources of economic analysis in India. Their content, analysis and opinions are usually very helpful to non-finance background people like me, but when the content loses its charm and focus, it becomes just another newspaper with a sole purpose to push content rather than add value to its readers.

I do not find this incorrect usage disturbing solely because I am a self-confessed Grammar Nazi; rather, I cringe at the dissemination of such knowledge through the mainstream media such that it becomes an accepted form of incorrect usage. It is no surprise that Indians, on average, fare worse than Western counterparts in literary and verbal aspects of global standardised exams such as the GRE and the GMAT. While we do fare much better in the Quantitative aspects, it would be prudent to improve our weaknesses, especially when there is so much scope and potential.

When acclaimed newspapers such as Economic Times commit such faux pas, it becomes a matter of routine for readers to carry the legacy forward, taking the content of such fame as gospel. When it gets imbibed in our system, we no longer care about the nuances of the language, making it difficult to improve later. Understanding the nuances of the language is essential not only for the competitive exams but also for forming our personality in the global world.

So what might be a solution to such a problem? Better editing? A more formalised proofreading team? Stringent publishing practices? Or does it go much deeper than that to the formative years of people when such incorrect idiomatic usage becomes the accepted norm? Should we have better training facilities in schools? Will rigorous training programs help?

What do you prefer then? Do you prefer “prefer to” to “prefer over”? You should, because that is the only one that makes grammatical and semantic sense.


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