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Will: Do You Have It?


Do animals have strong wills? This cat sure looks determined.

Do animals have strong wills? This cat sure looks determined.

Hello! Welcome to the VOA Learning English program Words and Their Stories. Each week, we explain how to use common words and expressions in American English.

Today we talk about a seemingly simple four-letter word: will. But do not be fooled. The word will is a strong noun and a powerful verb.

As a verb, will requires you to do something. If you say you will take action, you have promised to do it with no excuses -- no ifs, ands or buts.

As a noun, will is the determination to do something, demonstrating a strength or firmness of purpose. Someone who has a strong will does not give up.

Americans often say someone who is determined has an iron will. On the opposite side, someone who has lost their will has given up. It is a very serious situation when a person has lost their will to live. These people need lots of love and support.

Will can also be a person’s choice or desire to do something. For example, do you have the will to learn the English language? If you are listening to this show, I hope your answer would be “yes, I do.”

But perhaps you are being forced to learn a foreign language. In this case, you can say you are studying against your will. This will make learning much more difficult.

In a perfect world, you would think that all governments represent the will of the people. But sadly, some do not. They may reflect the will of the people with the most money, power or influence.

To do something at will means to do what you want, when you want. For example, a woman could say this about a former boyfriend. “He thought he could walk in and out of my life at will. The nerve!”

As a noun, the word will can mean a legal document. In a will, a person states who should receive their possessions after he or she dies.

There is also a document called a living will. This is a written statement. It explains a person's wishes concerning their medical treatment should they not be able to state this information themselves.

For example, a person may write in a living will that they do not wish to be kept alive with life support machinery. Such equipment can keep a person breathing and their heart beating even when they are unable to communicate.

The next word is willpower.

Willpower is the personal strength you have that enables you to do something difficult. Willpower is the ability to control oneself. For example, it takes great willpower to give up cigarettes.

To have willpower in life is important because life can be difficult.

It takes willpower to get into shape or lose weight. This personal trianer is helping a woman get more fit.

It takes willpower to get into shape or lose weight. This personal trianer is helping a woman get more fit.

But if you do find yourself in a difficult situation, do not give up. As they say, “Where there’s a will, there’s a way.” This saying means that having inner strength will help you overcome any problem life throws at you.

Even with willpower, life can present you with many difficult situations. For example, being in a battle of wills can be difficult. A battle of wills is when two people or groups are equally determined to get what they want. A battle of wills can get very heated.

But if you find yourself in a battle of wills, remember you have the free will to walk away.

Free will is a person’s freedom to choose for themselves. It is the power of acting without the help of God or luck. A common word we use for this concept is self-determination.

In a popular song, titled “Freewill,” the hard-rocking band Rush sings that if you choose not to choose, you still have made a choice.

“If you chose not to decide, you still have made a choice.

I’m Anna Matteo and I will be back with another Words and Their Stories.

“I will choose a path that's clear, I will choose freewill...”

Anna Matteo wrote this for VOA Learning English. George Grow was the editor.

Try one of these “will” words or expressions in a sentence in the Comments section.

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