Expressing "would rather" with "ningke"
宁可 (nìngkě) is used when the speaker wants to compare two unfavorable options, and choose one over the other. We usually express this as "would rather... than..." in English.
Using 宁可 with 也不
This construction puts 宁可 at the beginning of the sentence followed by 也不. 宁可 is followed by the less unfavorable option and 也不 is followed by the most unfavorable option.
- 我 宁可 没有 男朋友 ，也 不 要 随便 找 一 个 男朋友 。I'd rather have no boyfriend than find a random one.
- 我们 宁可 早到 也 不 要 迟到 。We'd rather arrive early than late.
- 他 宁可 输 ，也 不 放弃 。He'd rather lose than give up.
- 我 宁可 这个 月 少 花 一点 ，也 不 找 父母 要 钱 。I'd rather spend less money this month than ask my parents for money.
- 妈妈 宁可 把 这些 东西 送 给 陌生人 ，也 不 扔掉 。Mom would rather give these things to strangers than throw them away.
Using 宁可 with 也要
In this construction 宁可 is used a little differently. 宁可 is followed by unfavorable actions while 也要 is followed by things that you desire or something that you intend to achieve.
宁可 ⋯⋯ ，也要 ⋯⋯
Here the speaker must pay a price in order to complete or gain something, a bit like "even though X, I'm still willing to do Y."
- 我 宁可 熬夜 也 要 做完 。I'd rather stay up tonight just to finish it.
- 孩子们 宁可 不 吃饭 ，也 要 多 玩 一会儿 。The kids would rather not eat just to play a little longer.
- 他 宁可 和 女朋友 分手 ，也 要 留 在 国外 。He would rather break up with his girlfriend just to stay abroad.
- 她 宁可 花 一半 的 工资 租 房子 ，也 要 一个人 住 。She would rather spend half of her salary just to live alone.
- 我 宁可 坐 三十 个 小时 的 硬座 ，也 要 回 老家。I would rather sit in a hard seat for 30 hours if I can get home.