I am teaching some students changing original quotes into reported speech. Well, one of my students asked how the following quote can be changed into reported speech:

I would like to swim.

From my understanding, "would like to" simply means "want to". So, the whole sentence is a "present tense", am I right?

So, to change it to 'reported speech', is it:

You Bi said she wanted to swim.

Is the above grammatically correct?

  • Yes, your change is grammatically correct. "I would like to swim" (我想要游泳) is a polite way of saying "I want to swim" (我要游泳).
    – user21497
    Commented Jan 13, 2013 at 6:39

4 Answers 4


The expression does convey a sense of want, but it can take on several nuances, depending on the context. For example:

"What do you want to do today?"
"I would like to swim."

sounds like a conversation between two friends, trying to schedule the day's activities. However:

"Did you see Michael Phelps win that race yesterday?"
"Yes – I would like to swim like that."

conveys a longing for an ability to swim competitively, not necessarily a desire to go swimming that day.

As Barrie said in his answer, sometimes I would like to sounds more polite and less demanding than I want to. I also think it's more likely to be used in the realm of the hypothetical, like in the second conversation above. I think if the speaker was talking about concrete plans, instead of hopes and dreams, the expression I want to might be more likely to be used:

"I saw you at the pool yesterday."
"Yes, I've been training hard. I want to swim in the state finals next year."

In that case, using want to instead of would like to shows more resolve and determination.

Although these expressions are almost interchangeable in what they mean fundamentally, the subtle nuances can be complex. Even which word that gets stressed can cause a slight shift in meaning:

For example:

"I would like to swim in the finals next year."

seems to convey a different kind of hope than:

"I would like to swim in the finals next year."

Getting back to your question, though, there's nothing grammatically wrong with the sentence you asked about.

  • +1 for exapanding my sketchy answer. There's always a difficulty in answering questions like this, because so much depends on factors beyond the content of the question itself. Commented Jan 13, 2013 at 12:56

This is correct:

“You Bi would like to swim.”
= “You Bi wants to swim.”
→ “You Bi said she wanted to swim.”

You can also use would unchanged:

“I would like to swim.”
→ “You Bi said she would like to swim.”

Here, you can analyse would as conditional—if You Bi went swimming, she would like it. Would is also (morphologically) the past form of will, so it doesn’t need to change tense for reported speech.


I would like and I want are different ways of expressing volition. For that reason, it would be inaccurate to report I would like to swim as She said she wanted to swim. It has to be She said she would like to swim.

This use of would is sometimes described as having ‘unreal meaning’, but in cases such as this it is perhaps better seen as expressing a degree of tentativeness. The speaker doesn’t want to express her wishes forcefully, and the more polite form I would like, as opposed to I want, allows her to avoid doing so.


A better choice is to use the verb as it is:

"You Bi said she would like to swim."

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