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General Writing and Grammar Help/Would like to - would want to


Dear Ted:

Is there a difference between "I would like to do something" and "I would want to do something"?

If so, when should I use each of them?

Would you please give me some examples?

Thank you very much for the help.


Dear Paolo:

Is there a difference between "I would like to do something" and "I would want to do something"?

*** "Like" suggests something that is good, but unnecessary.  "Want" is somewhat stronger, as if you are responding to a need.

There is another factor to consider when you use the phrase "would want."  It expresses a potential preference, and that makes it subjunctive.  


If I won the lottery, I WOULD WANT to donate half the money to charity.  Paolo, that sentence is a poor way of saying, "If I won the lottery, I WOULD donate the money to charity."  In other words, saying "I would want to do something" is really a round-about way of saying what you really mean.

I advise against using the phrase.


I would like some vanilla ice cream.

I would like to travel to Italy.

[Note how odd it sounds if I "would want" to travel to Italy.  The idea is not complete, because you must give the circumstances, such as winning the lottery.]


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Ted Nesbitt


I am the bibliographic instruction and reference librarian at a public college. Some members of the English department recommend me to their students. I offer assistance in grammar, punctuation, sentence structure, and paragraph development. My master`s thesis concerns William Faulkner`s tragic novels. I formerly taught advanced placement English at two schools in the Philadelphia area.


I have been one of the highest-ranked volunteers in this category for more than a decade.

B. A. and M. A in English; MSIS in Library & Information Sciences; graduate study in philosophy

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