Everybody has different opinions about what is good. These opinions are called preferences – basically what you like and even how you like it. Coffee, for instance. Do you take it black? Or do you add milk and sugar to it? Maybe you don’t even like coffee. The thing is: we change our opinions as we grow older and discover new things. Some external factors, such as food allergies or moving to a new city or country, also affect our feelings toward things or actions. The thing is, the way you communicate your opinions doesn’t have to be boring! There are dozens of phrases to talk about your likes and dislikes, which are also called preference synonyms. Read on for more information on expressing preferences in English.

Describing our preferences

One of the easiest ways to express our likes is with a verb. Don’t feel trapped by using the word like though! There are so many synonyms and phrases that will allow you to be creative with your expressions.

Other ways to describe your likes and dislikes is with phrases specific to the situation. For example, when it comes to food, we can say some people are picky eaters. You probably know somebody like that. A picky eater is someone who refuses food often or ends up eating the same food over and over again. Lots of kids are picky eaters, but adults can also be like that. 

Example: Mike hates cucumbers and tomatoes. He is such a picky eater! 

picky eater
Mike is such a picky eater!

Some people have a sweet tooth, which means they often crave sweet foods, such as cakes, cookies, and chocolate.  

Example: I spend a good amount of money on candies to try to satisfy my sweet tooth.  

Another phrase you may hear is with the word junkie. Please note this word has a very serious connotation about a person who is addicted to drugs. However, it is also used to describe someone who likes something to the extreme, like a sports junkie. While this term can be innocent, I would not recommend using it! It is not suitable to use around children, either.

Can you think of any other phrases to describe specific activities or situations?

Gerunds and Infinitives

When we give opinions, we may mention nouns (a person, place, or thing, eg: chocolate, movies, computers, etc) or actions. Depending of the words we use such as a preference verb (I like, I enjoy, I love, I’m not a big fan of, etc), we use the infinitive form of the verb (to + verb) or the gerund (verb + -ing). Take a look at the video below to better understand the differences and similarities between these two forms.

Expressing preferences examples

Below are some phrases we can use to say or ask about preferences in English. You’ll also find a list of preference antonyms below. You can use them for anything: food, movies, colors, clothes, cars, actions, sports… be creative!

Easy phrases to say ‘I like’ something 

The easiest way to approve of a noun (person, place or thing) or an action is to use the verbs ‘like’ or ‘love.’ Just remember you can choose to use the gerund or the infinitive form with both of these verbs.

to like something… 

  • They like black coffee. 
  • She likes horror movies. 
  • I like something funny. 

to like + gerund 

  • I like going to the mall on Saturdays with my family.  
  • We like cooking with organic ingredients. 

 

to like + infinitive 

  • He likes to play soccer with his friends.
  • I like to drive while listening to the radio.

to love something….. 

  • I love New York City.  
  • I love romantic comedies. 
  • I love movies that are not predictable. 

to love + gerund 

  • I love traveling.
  • I love dancing with my friends at a concert.

 to love + infinitive 

  • I love to read murder mysteries
  • I love to sleep in late.

 

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Intermediate phrases to express your likes

These are more conversational phrases and cool ways to say I like it. Keep reading for phrases about expressing preferences in English.

Note: with to be a big fan of and enjoy, you can only use a noun or a gerund. You cannot use the infinitive verb form. (I enjoy to cook)

to be a big fan of something

  • I’m a big fan of chocolate chip cookies. 
  • She’s a big fan of German cars. 
  • We are big fans of Brazilian soccer. 

to be a big fan of + gerund 

  • I’m a big fan of cooking pasta for my friends. 
  • He’s a big fan of going to the gym before 6 am.

 

to enjoy + something

  • We enjoyed the movie.
  • I enjoy sunsets.

to enjoy + gerund 

  • I enjoy watching horror movies.
  • They enjoy traveling by plane.

to be keen on something…

  • I’m keen on Indian food. 
  • He’s keen on tennis.

to be keen on + gerund

  • I’m keen on reading fiction.
  • The kids are keen on playing football.

If you’d like to use prefer as a verb, it is very versatile and polite, but can be interpreted as formal as well. It’s also commonly used to compare two things.

to prefer + something

  • They prefer classical music.
  • The baby prefers her dad.

to prefer + gerund (to something else)

  • She prefers drinking water to wine. 
  • I prefer making my bed right after waking up. 

to prefer + infinitive

  • We’d prefer to meet him tomorrow for lunch. 
  • I prefer to exercise.

Read more about how to agree and disagree in English.

How to say you don’t like something

The following phrases are great to say I don’t like but in a polite manner. Keep reading for examples of sentences about expressing preferences in English.

 to not be not crazy about…. 

  • I’m not crazy about traveling by plane. 
  • They are not crazy about the winter. 

to dislike…. 

  • I dislike peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. 
  • You dislike going to the doctor. 
doctor and patient
My dad dislikes going to the doctor.

I hate…. 

  • The kids hate waking up early in the morning. 
  • I hate alcohol. I prefer soda or juice. 

can’t stand…. 

  • I can’t stand that girl. She is always making fun of me. 
  • They can’t stand waiting in line.  
waiting in line
She can’t stand waiting.

to not care for… 

  • She doesn’t care for white chocolate.
  • I don’t much care for vegetables.

 (…) is not (my/your/her/his/our/their) cup of tea 

  • That kind of music is not my cup of tea. 
  • To be honest, playing baseball is not my cup of tea. 
  • I know comedies are not your cup of tea, but I think you would like this movie. 

What is another way to say I don’t like something? Comment below with your ideas!

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Preferences change over time 

Personally, I used to hate coffee. I know, you may think I’m crazy or something. And I am Brazilian, which makes it even weirder since Brazil is one of the largest coffee producers in the world. Well, I didn’t like it. At all. Things changed after I turned 22 years old and I went to the USA to study there for a year.  

Strangely, I actually missed the smell of fresh coffee in the morning. It reminded me of my parents. So I started going to Starbucks to get my morning dose of caffeine and, most of all, to feel that smell that reminded me of home. I tried different drinks and flavors and suddenly I couldn’t live without coffee. I went from hating it to loving it to the point I didn’t function if I didn’t drink it before classes. 

What opinions of your own have changed significantly? What caused you to have new or different preferences? Comment below with your ideas! Try to use these different phrases to express preferences in English. Also, read more about preferences here. Remember, there are many ways of how to say ‘I like’ beyond that phrase!