Like/ Would like to/ Would

This is going to be a short one. Today’s post is inspired by my French students that seem to have difficulties differentiating between LIKE – WOULD LIKE TO – WOULD.

Let’s start with LIKE.

“Like” can be followed by to-infinitive or a verb finishing in -ing. It refers generally a person’s likes and dislikes.

I like eating Italian food.       I like to eat Italian food.

In American English the form with to-infinitive seems to be more frequent than the -ing form. There is little difference in meaning between the two forms: the -ing form emphasises the action, experience and enjoyment; we use the to-infinitive form to express habits or preferences. (see the Cambridge Dictionary entry here)

I like swimming a lot —- I like to swim in the morning before going to work.


When “would” is followed by “like, love, hate, prefer”, we use the to-infinitive form and not the -ing form. “Would like to” refers to what a person wants or prefers to do.

I would like to go for a swim later.  I would like going for a swim.  is incorrect.

I would love to have a cup of hot coffee, thank you.

It’s also used in offers: Would you like to have some tea? or requests: I would like to have a coffee, please.

It can also be followed by a noun, not only the to-infinitive: I would like a tomato pizza.


“Would” is a modal verb with multiple meanings always followed by the infinitive without to. You can read about its multiple uses of “would” here.

Let’s look at the difference in meaning between “like”, “would like” and “would” in similar sentences.

  1. I like living in a small town. (I live in a small town and I like it there.)
  2. I would like to live in a small town because it’s quieter than a city. (I probably live in a noisy city, and I would prefer to live in a small town instead).
  3. I would live in New York if I could. (I don’t live in New York, but if I had the chance I would go live there.)

I hope this was useful! Thanks for reading and stay tuned for the next posts. Please contact me for any reason; I love receiving messages and answering questions!

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