When would will work?

Just in case you're interested: This was an alliteration, which

Some of the problems the modal will brings are not obvious on the first sight. The main reason for that is that will is not obviously a modal.

wyllan modals

But back in the good old days...

... which nobody can remember because we are talking about centuries here, the word wyllan still meant something like want to or wish. In its meaning it was the same like the German wollen and, just like the German word, it was clearly a modal.

Times have changed. What used to be a strong will has degenerated to procrastination, a vague reference into the future. There are still some uses of the word in modern English reflecting old glamour, like for instance

Because in modern English the word will is mainly used to form the future tense, its usage as a modal is more or less limited to some idiomatic forms. Two of these are found above in sentences

The others aren't auxiliaries, but still illustrate the origin of the word-meaning quite nicely.

This is why the table on the previous page had will in brackets: As a real modal it has vanished.

And here a general rule kicks in, which you already know from your experience with partners, problems and pimples: When one goes, another one comes.

In the case of our disappearing will to express the modal concept of volition this is the phrase want to. You just use it everywhere this concept comes into play and you are done. It will adjust to all tenses and fit all situations.

That's it.


Except for the word


This is a real trouble maker and here is my chance to give a fair warning regarding the usage of would (which basically applies to should and could as well). These forms have one primary function, which is to express the conditional (a possibility). So I would do it. expresses the possibility that you may be ready to do it; probably under certain conditions like proper payment.

However, if the context contains some clear indication, preferably a time adverbial, would can express past tense of want to, like in This morning it was very cold and the engine of my car would not start.

This is basically the same as ... of my car did not want to start. (As we readily accept that cars tend to develop their own personality as they get older. Ask mine for details.)

So the bottom line is:

Whenever you want to express volition just stick to want to to be on the safe side.

This means that