Friday, August 19

The Real Deal between “I LIKE” and “I WANT”


      The expressions “I like” and “I want” are very similar in our minds because we can use them in the same way:

        I like + Noun                                I want + Noun
       I like books.                                   I want books.

       I like iced tea.                                I want iced tea.


      I like + to + Verb                           I want + to + Verb

      I like to read books.                       I want to read books.

      I like to drink iced tea.                   I want to drink iced tea.

But we NEVER say...

                                    I like + to + Noun X                      

     I like to flowers. X                       I like to a hamburger. X

Learners usually make this mistake especially at the moment of speaking.

Now, about their meaning…


When I ask students about “I like” vs. “I want”, most of them answer that the difference is just a matter of degree. The feeling in “I want” is stronger than in “I like”.

        I guess this is true. But there is a much more important thing you must know about these expressions.

         Take a look:

                 A: Do you like pancakes?

                  B: Yes, I like pancakes.  ü

-- BUT --

                  A: Do you want pancakes?

                  B: No, not now. I’m not hungry. ü

         A: Do you like to play tennis?

                  B: Yes, I like to play tennis. ü

-- BUT --

                  A: Do you want to play tennis?

                  B: Sure. When?  ü

                  A: This weekend. ü

       As a matter of fact, “Do you like…?” is used to ask about a person’s hobby or favorite thing, food, sport etc. It is NOT used to invite someone.

    On the other hand, when you ask “Do you want…?”, you might be surprised to find that you are, in fact, making an offer or an invitation.


I like… ======> general meaning ex. hobby, favorite, taste etc. (not now)

... while...

I want…  ======> specific meaning (now or in the future)

     We usually can’t feel this difference and we just think “want” is stronger than “like.”


This is a very important point, as you will see in our examples below.

Please try to choose the right word:

            What do you like to do (this/ next/ every) weekend?

            What do you want to do (this/ next/ every) weekend?


These are the correct answers:

  What do you like to do (this/ next/ every) weekend?ü

  What do you want to do (this/ next/ every) weekend? ü

If you ask: "What do you like to do this weekend?," you will be wrong.

Why?  Because the meaning of your sentence is mixed:

Your Verb/ action has a general meaning while your time has a specific meaning.

Similarly, if you make a sentence, please say:

            I like to eat Chinese food. (usually, sometimes, every weekend, once a month) ü

-- Don’t say --

            I like to eat Chinese food tomorrow. X

Please say:

I want to eat Chinese food tomorrow. ü

            It will take a lot of practice to get used to them. But the first step is to try and change our wrong idea about these two words.

 Registered & Protected

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