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Will and Want


Will and Want
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Hello! Today’s question for Ask a Teacher comes from Ademir in Brazil.

Question:

When can I use “will” with the same meaning of “want?” When are the two words interchangeable? Thanks,

Ademir, Brazil.

Answer:

Dear Ademir,

Thank you for writing to us. It is easy to understand why you have this question. Merriam-Webster Learner’s Dictionary uses “want” in one of the meanings it gives for “will,” saying it means “to want or desire (something)." There are three different ways we use the verb “will.” Let us look at those one by one.

Modal verb ‘will’

First, you should understand that we have a special kind of verb called a modal verb. These “helping” verbs include can, could, shall, should, ought to, will and would. When we use “will” in this way, it means that something is expected to happen.

The train will leave at nine o’clock.

People walk carrying their luggage past train schedule displays at Termini train station, on the day the government lays out a plan of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) restrictions over the Christmas period, in Rome, Dec. 19, 2020.
People walk carrying their luggage past train schedule displays at Termini train station, on the day the government lays out a plan of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) restrictions over the Christmas period, in Rome, Dec. 19, 2020.


Will as a desire

Second, when the verb stands alone it means to want or desire something. Here is an example:

You can say what you will, but my yellow car is beautiful to me.

Old Yellow Car Parked on the Street
Old Yellow Car Parked on the Street


In that case, you may use the verb “want” and have the same meaning.

You can say what you want, but my car is beautiful to me.

The only difference here between “will and “want” is that we often add “to” after “want” as in:

You can say what you want to about my car, I still love it!

Using mental force

A third meaning of the verb “will” is “to cause or try to cause (something) to happen by using the power of your mind.” Here is an example:

The student willed the clock to move faster toward the end of class.

As in the earlier case, you might be able to use “want” in these sentences, but it would change the meaning a little and sound less forceful.

Giving property in a will

Finally, we can use “will” to talk about leaving our property to others when we die. That is a legal term, as in:

She willed the family jewels to her only child.

In that case, you could not substitute “want” unless you added another verb, as in this example:

She wanted to will the family jewels to her only child.

I hope this makes the difference clear to you, Ademir.

What question do you have about American English? Send us an email at learningenglish@voanews.com

And that’s Ask a Teacher.

I’m Jill Robbins.

Dr. Jill Robbins wrote this lesson for VOA Learning English. Caty Weaver was the editor.

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