Like, Want, and Would Like in English

like, want, and would like in English

Let’s talk about how to be more formal and polite in English, by using ‘would like’ in place of ‘want’ when we make offers and requests.

Using ‘want’ is appropriate in casual situations, and with family or close friends. There’s nothing wrong with asking a friend, ‘hey, do you want something to drink?’ Feel free to offer a buddy an option, with, ‘do you want some soda water or some juice?’ However, be aware that the question ‘what do you want?’ by itself is almost always considered rude.

In more formal situations, or when you want to emphasize respect, you can do this by replacing ‘want’ with ‘would like’.

Let’s look at how we can do this, and at the grammar we need.

We know that ‘want’ is a normal verb, and that normal verbs in English require the auxiliary verb ‘do’ to form questions. Therefore, we ask ‘do you want something to drink? Does your child want some as well?’

We also know that when we have two normal verbs together, we need to separate them with ‘to’. So we ask ask, ‘do you want to see the menu?’

Would is not a normal verb. It’s a special kind of verb called a modal auxiliary verb. This is important to know, because modal auxiliary verbs follow different rules:

First, they do not need any help to form questions, so we don’t need to add ‘do’. Instead, they trade places with the subject, the same way the verb ‘to be’ does.

Second, these types of auxiliary verbs are always directly associated with the basic form of another verb. They are not separated by ‘to’. In this case, ‘would’ is connected with the verb ‘like’. It is incorrect to say: I would to like a sandwich. The correct form is: I would like a sandwich.

Let’s put it all together:

Compare the ‘want’ and ‘would like’ forms below, and think through the following questions:
1.) Describe a situation where it is appropriate to use ‘want’.
2.) Describe a situation where it is appropriate to use “would like’.
3.) What type of verbs are separated by ‘to’?
4.) When do we use ‘do’ as an auxiliary verb?
5.) How do we form questions with ‘would like’?

want or would like compared

Let’s practice!

Like, want, would like – Quiz 1

How to answer ‘would you’ offers and questions

As we know from previous lessons, the usual way to answer closed questions in general is:

Yes, subject + repeat ‘to be’ or the auxiliary (or use ‘do’ if there is no auxiliary)
No, subject + repeat ‘to be’ or the auxiliary (or use ‘do’ if there is no auxiliary) + not.

Are you hungry? Yes, I am. / No, I’m not.
Do you want more salad? Yes, I do. / No, I don’t.

The same formula applies with in the affirmative of ‘would like’.

Would you like some dessert? Yes, I would.

However, we tend not to use the usual formula in the negative. It sounds overly formal and cold. It sounds more natural and polite to respond in the negative with a simple ‘no, thank you’.

Be careful not to confuse ‘like’ and ‘would like’.


The verb ‘like’ by itself means to enjoy or prefer.

‘Would like’ is a formal way to say want.

Let’s practice!

Like, want, would like – Quiz 2