If he had it his way...

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ironman2012

Senior Member
Chinese
Hi,

For Wales, a humanitarian vision has always been the driving force behind Wikipedia. The goal, he says, is to create a world in which “every single person on the planet is given free access to the sum of all human knowledge”. If he had it his way, people in the furthest, most destitute corners of the world would all have a mobile phone preloaded with Wikipedia at no data charge.

(This comes from telegraph.co.uk Jimmy Wales: I don't regret not monetising Wikipedia by Eleanor Steafel on 15 Jan 2016.)

1. Does "it" refer to "the goal"; and "had it his way" mean "had what he wanted", and here mean "achieve his goal"?
2. Does the blue part suggest "he would buy mobile phone for those people in order to achieve his goal"? I don't understand the relations of the main clause and subclause.

Thanks in advance!
 
  • lingobingo

    Senior Member
    English - England
    It is just a generalisation (a dummy object, in effect) – you could replace it with “things”.

    If he had it/things his way = If he had his way = If it were up to him
    The description that follows is what he would like (theoretically) to be the case.
     
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    PaulQ

    Banned
    UK
    English - England
    1. Does "it" refer to "the goal"; and "had it his way" mean "had what he wanted", and here mean "achieve his goal"?
    No.
    It = the whole matter
    Does the blue part suggest "he would buy mobile phone for those people in order to achieve his goal"?
    No, certainly not. It means "The circumstances would be that people in the furthest, most destitute corners of the world would all have a mobile phone preloaded with Wikipedia at no data charge."
     

    ironman2012

    Senior Member
    Chinese
    It is just a generalisation (a dummy object, in effect)
    "I found it difficult to do that": this "it" is also a dummy object, referring to "to do that". But this "it" seems different from the above "it", right?
    If he had it/things his way = If he had his way = If it were up to him
    Does "had it his way" have nothing to do with "had what he wanted"?
    have it/things/everything your own way
    to have what you want, especially by opposing other people
     

    lingobingo

    Senior Member
    English - England
    "I found it difficult to do that": this "it" is also a dummy object, referring to "to do that". But this "it" seems different from the above "it", right?
    There is a difference, yes, in that in your new example (but not in the original one) the dummy it has a direct referent in the sentence:

    I found it difficult to do that = I found doing that difficult​
    Does "had it his way" have nothing to do with "had what he wanted"?
    “Had what he wanted” may explain what “had his own way” means, but it’s not an alternative way of saying it in this context.
     

    ironman2012

    Senior Member
    Chinese
    If he had it/things his way = If he had his way = If it were up to him
    Sorry, I still don't fully understand why.
    1. Why "it/things" can be omitted too understand?
    2. Does "his way" here mean "his method/a method"?
    3. Why "If he had his way = If it were up to him"? Is "have one's way" a set phrase meaning "be up to somebody"?
     

    kentix

    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    "If he had his way" is a reference to a hypothetical situation. In this case, it's an almost impossible hypothetical situation. He doesn't have the resources or the money to give everyone in ever corner of the world a phone with Wikipedia on it." But he is saying if he could create a perfect world, that would be one feature it would have. Of course, he can't create a perfect world.

    "If he had it his way", means if everything in existence is how he wanted it to be, it would include mobile phones for everyone. "It" is not specific, it's very, very, very general.

    If he had his way = if he had it his way

    You don't absolutely need the "It" because it all takes place in "it", the existence of everything, whether you say it directly or not.

    If he had his way (in how the universe is arranged) = if he had (the universe [arranged]) his preferred way
     
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    lingobingo

    Senior Member
    English - England
    You need to look at it as an idiom. Idioms do not always follow the general pattern.

    1. Why "it/things" can be omitted too understand? I don’t know what you mean by this.

    2. Does "his way" here mean "his method/a method"? No. It means something like his wish, what he would like if it were possible.

    3. Why "If he had his way = If it were up to him"? Is "have one's way" a set phrase meaning "be up to somebody"? Yes, it’s a set phrase, as I’ve said. But it doesn’t mean “be up to somebody”, exactly. See the alternative versions in #2.
     

    ironman2012

    Senior Member
    Chinese
    1. Why "it/things" can be omitted too understand? I don’t know what you mean by this.
    I mean why "it/things" can be omitted without changing the meaning.
    Why "If he had his way = If it were up to him"? Is "have one's way" a set phrase meaning "be up to somebody"? Yes, it’s a set phrase, as I’ve said. But it doesn’t mean “be up to somebody”, exactly. See the alternative versions in #2.
    Do you refer to "If he had it/things his way = If he had his way = If it were up to him"?
    If yes, isn't it "... = If he had his way = If it were up to him"?
     

    lingobingo

    Senior Member
    English - England
    There are variants of the idiom, that’s all. You need to practise a little lateral thinking.

    to have your own way = to get what you want (as opposed to someone else getting what they want)

    If I had my way = If it were up to me (to choose what should happen in the situation we’re talking about)

    If I had it my way = If I had what should happen in this situation under my own control​
    isn't it "... = If he had his way = If it were up to him"?
    Yes, as I’ve already said at least twice! They’re two ways of saying the same thing — but the second is a paraphrase, not a definition.
     

    Forero

    Senior Member
    It is just a generalisation (a dummy object, in effect) – you could replace it with “things”.

    If he had it/things his way = If he had his way = If it were up to him
    The description that follows is what he would like (theoretically) to be the case.
    I agree with "if he had it his way" = "if he had things his way", but these three expressions do not quite mean the same thing:

    If he had it his way ~= If things were as he wanted them.
    If he had his way ~= If he could do whatever he wanted.
    If it were up to him ~= If it were his decision to make / If he had the responsibility for it.
     

    PaulQ

    Banned
    UK
    English - England
    If he had it his way ~= If things were as he wanted them.
    If he had his way ~= If he could do whatever he wanted.
    If it were up to him ~= If it were his decision to make / If he had the responsibility for it.
    Given context, the above are distinctions without a difference, especially if the "solution" is theoretical/impossible. They all boil down to "Given the chance/if it were possible, I'd do it this way."
     
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