1. I want a look (at sth)
  2. I want to have a look (at sth)

I would think both of the sentences above have negligible nuances. But option 2 seems to be more common (according to google ngram) despite being longer to say. Why is that the case?


  1. I want a closer look...
  2. I want to have a closer look...

Seem to be much more comparable in popularity, with 3 having more entries than 4. Can this be attributed to difference in degrees of formality?

  • 1
    I imagine this might vary from speaker to speaker, but to "have a look" suggests a brief look whereas look as verb suggests a proper look. I want to look at it. I don't think there's much difference between "want a look" and "want to have a look" where "look" in both instances is a noun. wanting, and wanting to have, are much the same.
    – TimR
    Oct 20, 2017 at 16:39
  • @Tᴚoɯɐuo, so native speakers would use both versions almost interchangeably?
    Oct 21, 2017 at 1:45
  • 1
    They're definitely interchangeable. I'm unsure of what nuances one brings over the other. It may actually vary depending on the object. Here's a similar question: ell.stackexchange.com/questions/145282/…
    – Ringo
    Oct 21, 2017 at 16:16
  • Is there a reason you omitted "to take a look" and "to take a closer look" which are interchangeable with the above? Oct 26, 2017 at 2:38

2 Answers 2


The word "look" is typically a verb: in its infinitive form, it is "to look".

I want you TO LOOK at me.

But in your sentences, "a look" is acting as a noun phrase. It encapsulates more than just the act of looking. Instead, it actually deemphasizes the act of only seeing, and instead suggests an opportunity to interact.

"I want a look that problem when you're done."

Experiment! Say, "I want to look out loud" 5 times fast.

You'll hear that it could be heard as, "I want A look", because the "to" and the "a" (I hear it often as "I wan-tahl-ook".) Think French Liaisons. The "want to" requires a distinct double "t", and "want a" only has a single "t". If one is not precise about the enunciation, the difference in phonetics can become blurred.

So, the solution to this is to add a separator between the "want" and the "to". When the emphasis is on "to look", the phrase "to have" will be added so that you can clearly hear the "t" in "to".

When it's focusing on the "opportunity", "want" can be immediately followed by "to" (that is, "I want to look"). But this pattern will sound as if the individual is saying " I want a look" regardless of whether they mean a look or "to look")

This speech pattern will echo itself in writing, and thus we have the distinction between 1 and 2, with 2 being the clearer indication of the "a look" phrasing.

3 and 4 don't have that same issue, so there should be less of a discrepancy between them.

It is clear that 3 is Sub. V. Do. " I want a look" with "closer modifying look, but removing the ambiguity of the phrasing. Example 4 just ends up being less efficient.


I think the best one is the second phrase, why is that?

  1. I want a look at... this phrase itself looks a bit strange from its construction and I think it is not correct. You either write: I want to look at... or want to have a look at..

2. I want to have a look' this is one of the collocation of the word look.

remember that: ***Collocations are words that go together naturally in English***Learning collocations is essential for making your English sound fluent and natural.

  1. I want a closer look. same comment as in 1.

  2. I want to have a closer look, you can improve 'complete' the phrase by adding than I already did. It sounds also fluent.

4.a: You can say: I want to have a look more closely,'you can add', than I already did. It sounds also fluent.

Note: The word look here works as a noun and countable.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .