The difference between Want and Would like

Want means to wish, desire, need and sometimes can be a little direct, or impolite; would like is the polite form for want.

For example, when someone asks you what you would like to drink – which reply sounds more polite to you?

  • I want an apple juice. [Could be impolite, depending on the situation]
  • I would like an apple juice. [Polite]


We use would like to say more politely what we want; verbs that follow would like are in the to + Infinitive form, for example:

  • I would like to read that book.
  • I’d like to drink a coffee.

The short form of would like is ’d like, for example,

  • I’d like a cup of tea.
  • I’d like to fix those droids.

Be careful with using the Gerund (-ing form of the verb)

As mentioned previously, we do not use the gerund, as the meaning changes:

  • I would like to swim. (This means right now I have a wish or desire to swim.)
  • I’d like swimming if I could actually swim. (I would like the act of swimming, if I could.)