Will, Willed, a Will… All You Need to Know About “Will”

Will, Willed, a Will… All You Need to Know About “Will”

Where there is a will there is a way.

An English proverb

To begin with, let’s consider a few definitions:

Modal verb is a verb that is used with another verb to express an idea such as possibility that is not expressed by the main verb of a sentence. There are 9 modal verbs: cancouldmaymightwillwouldmustshall and should. Modal verbs are in bold in the following sentences:

can read in French.

You should quit your job.

The car won’t start.

Non-modal verb is a verb which is not an auxiliary (be, do, have) and not a modal. Non-modal verbs are in bold in the following sentences:

I have cleaned the flat.

study biology.

He willed himself to fall asleep.

Noun [naun] is a word that refers to a person, place, thing, event, substance or quality. Nouns are in bold in the following sentences:

I see a cat.

We have bought a new table.

He did it of his own free will.

So, we see “will” in each of the categories above because “will” can perform 3 different functions.


As a modal “will” can be used to mean:

  • Future (especially when you talk about things that you are certain about or things that are planned): She will be 15 years old in 2 months. It won’t be easy to find a good teacher.
  • Future (in conditional sentences with “if”): If I have more free time, I will do it. She will call you if she wants to.
  • WillingnessShe car won’t start. I’ll give you a lift. 
  • Ability: This pizza will feed 5 people. The seat will hold two children.
  • Request: Will you tell me the time please? Will you join us for a cup of tea?
  • Strong probabilityThat will be Scott at the door (I am sure it’s him). As you all will know, the event starts tomorrow.
  • Order (when angry): Will you stop giggling while I’m trying to work! You will go upstairs and you will go to bed right now!
  • Something that always happens; inevitabilityAccidents will happen; He will smoke his pipe after dinner.



As a non-modal verb “will” has a few meanings too:

  • If you will something to happen, you try to make it happen by the power of your thoughts (She was willing herself not to cry. He willed himself to remember her name because he knew he would need to speak to her again.);
  • If you will something to somebody, you arrange to give money or property to others after your death (He willed his entire estate to his daughter. She willed her jewelry to her sister.);
  • (FORMAL) if you will something, you want it (Stay or go, as you will; The King wills it).


And last but not least, “will” can perform the function of a noun. In this case it can be used to mean:

  • The mental power to control and direct your thoughts and actions, or determination to do something, despite any difficulties or opposition (He is a man of a strong will. Don’t ever lose the will to live.);
  • What someone wants to happen (It is God’s will. If you do it against her will, she’ll never speak to you);
  • (OLD-FASHIONED) Enthusiasm (She always works with a will.);
  • An official statement of what a person has decided should be done with their money/property after their death (She has already made a will. We had to challenge the will.).


And here are 2 idioms to make the article complete:

  • At will: She can cry at will (= she can cry whenever she wants to.);
  • To take the will for the deed: I won’t take the will for the deed this time. I have heard enough of your promises. Now I need action (= your words will not be enough, actions speak louder than words).

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