There are quite a few words and phrases in Spanish that have very similar uses / meanings.
Such is the case with ‘quisiera’ and ‘me gustaría’.
But which is the better option when asking for something?
In short – BOTH ‘quisiera’ and ‘me gustaría’ are correct and polite ways to begin a request, although ‘quisiera’ is more commonplace in this context.
Wanna find out exactly what differentiates these two expressions?
Let’s get into the nitty-gritty!
‘Quisiera’ and ‘me gustaría’ can be used interchangeably in the following way –
1. As a polite way to make a request.
Quisiera / Me gustaría una copa de vino. = I would like a glass of wine.
‘Quisiera’ can also be used in the following ways –
1. As a way of expressing a wish or desire.
Quisiera viajar por el mundo antes de los 30. = I would like to travel the world before turning 30.
2. As a synonym of ‘love’ or ‘loved’ in “unreal” / “imaginary” situations.
¿Te imaginas si quisiera a mis hermanos tanto como tú a los tuyos? = Can you imagine if I loved my brothers as much as you love yours?
‘Me gustaría’ is mostly used in the following way –
1. To state that you would like or enjoy something.
Me gustaría ir por un helado. = I’d like to go for an ice cream.
‘Quisiera’ vs ‘me gustaría’
Strictly speaking, ‘quisiera’ – which is the imperfect subjunctive conjugation (1st + 3rd person) of the verb ‘querer’ – is associated with ‘wishes’, while ‘me gustaría’ – a conditional conjugation of the verb ‘gustar’ (1st + 3rd person) – is related to ‘tastes’ or ‘liking’ something/someone:
Quisiera que mi familia finalmente se reconciliara.
I wish my family would finally reconcile.
Me gustaría ir a cenar tacos.
I’d like to go for tacos.
As you can see in the above examples, ‘quisiera’ and ‘me gustaría’ have different symbolic and emotional meanings: the former expresses a deep want or need for something, and the latter simply refers to something that would be enjoyable.
HOWEVER, you’ll encounter plenty of examples where the two are used interchangeably, especially when it comes to asking politely for something:
En una cafetería
Barista – Buenos días, ¿qué va a llevar?
Cliente – Buenas*. Quisiera / me gustaría un latte mediano, por favor.
At a coffee shop
Barista – Good morning, what can I get you?
Customer – Mornin’. I would like a medium latte, please.
* Erika’s top tip – if you wanna sound extra-casual and more like a native speaker, you can greet people with a simple ‘buenas’ instead of ‘buenos días’ or ‘buenas tardes’.
So, which one should you use?
Well, it’s all about subtlety.
Even though both phrases are equally polite when asking for a service, assistance, or favor, ‘quisiera’ feels more like a request (i.e., directed at a waiter, customer service executive, etc.), whereas ‘me gustaría’ might be considered more of a statement about something you would like to do / to have.
En un restaurante
Mesero – ¿Listos para ordenar?
Bianca – Sí, quisiera una orden de molletes, por favor.
Alberto – Me gustaría algo ligero, pero aún no sé qué…
Mesero – Puedo volver en unos minutos.
In a restaurant
Waiter – Ready to order?
Bianca – Yes, I would like some molletes, please.
Alberto – I feel like having something easy on the stomach, but I’m not sure yet …
Waiter – I’ll come back in a few minutes.
So, when in doubt, my advice is you use ‘quisiera’ to make formal requests, and ‘me gustaría’ in casual conversations when you’re expressing a desire to do something.
En una tienda
Cajera – ¿Quisiera una bolsa de cartón para sus compras?
Cliente – No, muchas gracias.
In a store
Cashier – Would you like a cardboard bag for your shopping?
Customer – No, thank you very much.
Alma – Me gustaría mucho ir al cine contigo…¿cómo ves?*
Sebas – ¡Sí, claro! ¿Tienes tiempo mañana?
Alma – I’d really like to go to the movies with you … What do you reckon?
Sebas – Yes, of course! Do you have time tomorrow?
*Erika’s note – ‘cómo ves’ is a super useful expression meaning something along the lines of ‘What do you reckon?’.
‘Querer’ as ‘to love’
You may also find ‘quisiera’ used in the context of ‘caring’ about someone or ‘loving’ someone.
Niña pequeña – ¿Me quieres, mamá?
Madre – Si no te quisiera…¿Te comería a besos y cosquillas?
Toddler – Do you love me, Mom?
Mother – If I didn’t love you … Would I smother you with kisses and tickles?
Erika’s top tip – if you wanna know more about all things love-related in Spanish, you can check out our article on all the different ways to respond to ‘te amo’.
Similar expressions to ‘quisiera’ / ‘me gustaría’
Me podría / Me podrías – Could you
Another very polite alternative to ‘quisiera’ and ‘me gustaría’ (when used as requests) is ‘me podría’ (formal “usted” form) and ‘me podrías’ (informal ‘you’).
It’s a bit like saying ‘Could you possibly [insert verb] me …’.
¿Me podrías traer un vaso con agua, por favor?
Could you bring me a glass of water, please?
Me da / Me das – Can you
In Mexico you’re sure to hear people prefacing requests with ‘me da’ (formal) or ‘me das’ (informal).
Me da un jarabe para la tós, un paracetamol y una caja de pañuelos, por favor.
I’ll have a cough syrup, a paracetamol and a box of tissues, please.
A word of advice: this is the least polite alternative, so be mindful of your intonation!
Hopefully in the future you’ll feel more confident when choosing between ‘me gustaría’ and ‘quisiera’. Although the difference between the two is very subtle, ‘quisiera’ should be your go-to word when asking for something … but if you use ‘me gustaría’ instead it’s also perfectly fine.
Oh, and if you wanna improve your everyday Spanish vocab, I recommend you head on over to our article on ‘disculpe’ and ‘perdón’ next!