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In French the verb "vouloir" is associated with "volonté" (will) as well as with desire. In English "want" is more deeply intertwined with a lack (un manque). When something is found wanting, it is insufficient, it is missing something necessary. This basic meaning of "want" is interesting, because it makes the grammatical subject an experiencer as much as an agent.




When it combines with "to", "want to" is as much a modalizer as a lexical verb. Like "going to" / "have to", the modalizing particle "to" is reduced to ə.

It adds a notion of desire or lack to another verb in the infinitive mode (active or passive) which in turn expresses the object of desire.

  • She wants to finish before evening.
    (active infinitive)
  • He wants (her) to be finished before evening.
    (passive infinitive)
  • They wanted to be loved, and they were.
    (passive infinitive)
  • They wanted to Ø love each other, and they did.
    (active infinitive)

The verb "want" is compatible with the imperative. When one hears Wanna' [...] ?, it is (perhaps) best thought of as a simplification of a more complex structure.

  • Wanna' play? Do you want to play?
  • Wanna' stop for lunch? Do you want to stop for lunch?
  • Watcha' wanna' do? What do you want to do?
  • Wadaya want? What do you want? (present tense): que veux-tu?
  • Wadidya want? What did you want? (past tense): que voulais-tu?, qu'aurais-tu voulu?


As a noun "want" is a lack, an absence.

Some examples from Henry James, "The Figure in the Carpet"

  • [...] Drayton Deane's want of voice, want of form.
  • So abrupt an experience of her want of trust had now a disturbing effect on him.
  • Corvick: "But he [the author] gives a pleasure so rare; the sense of [...] something or other".
    Narrateur: I wondered again. "The sense, pray, of want?"



formation à partir de la terminaison de participe présent (+ ing).

predicate adjective: lacking, missing, insufficient (manquant, insuffisant)

His papers were found wanting.


formation à partir du participe passé régulier: (+ -ed)

Le sens de mot comme adjectif est très influencé par l'avis de recherche: the "wanted" poster.
Mais comme verbe au prétérit ou participe passé (homophone avec l'adjectif), il n'en est rien: il veut toujours vouloir dire: souhaité, desiré!

2009: Wanted, dir. Prabhu Deva §


Waste not, want not.

For want of a nail the shoe was lost.
For want of a shoe the horse was lost.
For want of a horse the rider was lost.
For want of a rider the message was lost.
For want of a message the battle was lost.
For want of a battle the kingdom was lost.
And all for the want of a horseshoe nail.