You are on page 1of 4


We use the verb want to talk about wishes and needs, and to give advice:

What do you want for dinner tonight? (wish or desire)

The kitchen wants painting. (needs)

You want to get your tickets soon before theyre all sold out. (I advise you to)

Most uses of want involve the simple forms of the verb (want, wants, wanted). When we are
talking about wishes or desires we can also use the continuous form (is wanting, was wanting,
will be wanting).

Want meaning wish or desire

We always follow want with a complement of some kind. The complement completes the
meaning of the clause. The complement can be a noun or pronoun as an object, or a verb in
the to-infinitive form, or an object plus a verb in the to-infinitive form:


Dyou want a drink? Ive just made some coffee. (noun object)


Oh, yes, please.

Not: Dyou want?

She said I could have her oldBIKE , but I dont want it. (pronoun object)

Not: but I dont want.

This is a new kind of fruit juice I got. Dyou want to try it? (to-infinitive)

Not: Do you want try it?

The teacher wants her to do the exams again next year. (object + to-infinitive)

Not: The teacher wants that she does the exams

In reduced clauses (e.g.SHORT answers), we can use the to without its verb:

Is Elsa going to France with you?


No. She doesnt want to. (She doesnt want to go [to France].)

Not: She doesnt want.


We dont use want with a that-clause:

I want you to tidy your room before the visitors come.

Not: I want that you tidy your room

Want with wh-words (whatever you want)

We can use wh-words such as what, when, whenever, wherever, whoever before want. In such
cases, it is often not necessary to use the infinitive to after want:

You dont have to stay for the whole lecture. You can leave whenever you want. (or whenever
you want to.)


Would you like some of these carrots from our garden?


Oh, yes, please.


Take what you want.

Want with if

In statements with if, it is often not necessary to use the infinitive to after want:

She can park her car at our house, if she wants.

However, we use the infinitive to after want in negative clauses with if:

He doesnt have to stay the night if he doesnt want to.

Want in the continuous form

We can use want in the continuous form to show indirectness or politeness:


Were wanting to buy a newTV , but were not sure what to get.


Okay, sir. Let me show you some of them.

I was wanting to ask you something. Are you free right now?

We can also use the continuous form to emphasise an ongoing or repeated process:

Wed been wanting to go to New Zealand for years, so his sixtieth birthday was a good excuse.

Now that shes a teenager shes wanting expensive things, you know, computers, clothes, sports

Want meaning need

We can use want with the -ing form of a verb to say that something is necessary or should be
done. This usage is quite informal:

Your hair wants cutting. (needs to be cut)

That cupboard wants clearing out.

In informal situations, we can also use want + -ing in a similar way to the construction have
something done:

Have you got anySHIRTS you want washing? (which you want to have washed)

Want for advice and warnings

In informal situations, we can use want plus the to-infinitive to advise, recommend or warn. It is
almost always in the present simple, but we can also use it with ll (theSHORT form ofwill):

You want to be careful riding yourBIKE in town. Thereve been some bad accidents lately. (you
should be careful)
What youll want to do, youll want to take that bit off and clean it with oil or something.