I'm a non-native speaker. In my mother tongue, we just have one verb to express "willing", so sometimes it's a puzzle to us Persians: What are the differences among "wanted" and "would want" and "would"?

For example, what are the differences among these sentences:

  1. You wanted to do it.
  2. You would want to do it. (I guess it's better to add some words at first of this sentence like "maybe")
  3. You would do it.


There is no problem to me about "want" and "would". my main problem is the difference between these two verb.

What do I know about "Wanted" and "would"?

To me "wanted" and "would" is completely like together and it expresses a willingness in past that is failed.

  • I think you would need to include what you already know. That preceding sentence is a typical use of would (which could be replaced by present tense will with no significant change in meaning). In practice, will, would aren't often used with any allusions to willingness, volition (they're modal verb forms primarily used to convey "future" or "conditionality"). We need to know what you do know before we can meaningfully explain those aspects of usage you presumably don't know. Commented Sep 24, 2015 at 16:04
  • 2
    What is your understanding of the meanings of "would" and "want"? In English, "want" isn't exactly the same as "willing", so it's difficult to give you a complete answer that takes into account the verb in your native language without understand more about what you're trying to say in your sentences. "She wanted to" is different from "She was willing to".
    – ColleenV
    Commented Sep 24, 2015 at 16:04

1 Answer 1


1: You wanted to do it means that at some point in the past you were willing to do it

2: You would want to do it means that I think you would be willing to do it if... (you knew what it was / you thought about it differently)

3: You would do it means it isn't always something you are willing to do but you may do it if...


Want suggests desire, it implies that you are happy to do something, if you want something you'll take measures to get it (trade, buy, steal...)

  • I want a pony, I'll go out and get one if I can.
  • I wanted to go to London but something stopped me.
  • I would want to go to Spain but I can't afford to.

Willing suggests that you will do something, but you might need to be persuaded or paid. It in no way means want.

  • I am willing to look after a pony, but I'm not going to try to get one.
  • I was willing to go to London but I had no reason to go.
  • I would be willing to go to Spain with you if you want to go, otherwise I would not go.
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    Per @ColleenV's comments above, to want [to do something] doesn't exactly mean to be willing [to do it]. It's perfectly possible to say, for example, I'm willing to do it, but I don't actually want to. Commented Sep 24, 2015 at 16:47
  • Thanks @FumbleFingers, I've corrected my answer to reflect that.
    – Troyseph
    Commented Sep 24, 2015 at 17:38
  • 1
    I'd still say your text conflates want and be willing. For example, your first definition, for You wanted to do it, should be something more like At some point in the past it was your wish, desire to do it. Saying you were willing to do it just means you were prepared (perhaps reluctantly, effectively, almost "against your will") to do it. Commented Sep 24, 2015 at 17:59
  • @FumbleFingers this is harder than I thought... Though I would say that if you wanted to do something you'd also be willing to do it by definition. It is only when you don't want to do something that you may or may not be willing
    – Troyseph
    Commented Sep 25, 2015 at 8:05
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    You're quite right that the way English uses words in the general area of desire, obligation can get pretty "hard". I think that over many generations, native speakers have "deliberately" connived/contrived to blur the distinction between those two meanings in the interests of tact and diplomacy. So we end up today with He was willing to do it usually implying He didn't really want to, but in the circumstances, he was prepared to do it. As opposed to He did it willingly, which invariably implies he did it enthusiastically (by implication, because he really did want to do it). Commented Sep 27, 2015 at 13:50

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