if you want it

azz

Senior Member
armenian
Can one say

a. If you want to do it, you can do it.
b. If you want it, you can do it.
c. If you want, you can do it.
d. If you want, you can.

?

Which means
1. You have the right to do it, if you choose to.
and which means
2. If you really want to do it, you'll manage to do it.
?

The sentences are mine.
I'd say all of them are more or less ambiguous.

Many thanks.
 
  • FreeToyInside

    Member
    American English
    This question is a few days old, but I want to clarify the slight differences in these sentences.

    a. If you want to do it, you can do it.
    This is just a general statement, and sounds like it's meant to motivate. (Think slogan for shoes or a sports drink.) As an answer to a question, it tells the other person that they are allowed to do what they're wanting to do.

    b. If you want it, you can do it.
    This also sounds like a motivational slogan, but seems slightly off for spoken English, I think because "it" after "want" is standing in for a noun, but the verb in the second part is "do," which doesn't work with many nouns. If you replaced "it" with an actual noun, the whole sentence would seem awkward. "If you want money, you can do it" (Do what? Get money? How?) If you change the verb, it would make sense - "If you want money, you can get/earn/find it." Generally, in AE at least, if what you want is to do something, instead of "it" you say "to," as in "if you want to, you can do it." Changing your sentence like this makes it the same as the first statement.

    c. If you want, you can do it.
    This is similar to the first sentence, just omitting a "do it." You can then say "if you want to do it, you can" or "if you want (to), you can do it" without changing the meaning. In the first sentence, saying "do it" in each phrase isn't incorrect, just not necessary to repeat unless you really wanted to stress the "do it" part.

    d. If you want, you can.
    This sounds the most to me like an answer to a question someone has asked, whereas the first three can also be general statements. Be cautious though, because an answer like this can often show some indifference to what the person asking will actually do.
    A: Can I use almonds instead of cashews?
    B: You can if you want (to)/If you want to, you can. (You can use almonds, cashews, or both. I don't care.) This is not a rule, just something to think about. The tone of voice is usually a good indicator of a genuine response or an indifferent one.


    So, with this in mind, in answer to your questions:
    Which means
    1. You have the right to do it, if you choose to.
    Because of the lack of context, I'm hesitant to say any of these. I'd be careful to distinguish between being able to do something/having permission to do something and having a right to do something. If you have a situation in mind, I'd happily give you my opinion.

    and which means
    2. If you really want to do it, you'll manage to do it.
    Again, there's lack of context, but all four of them imply accomplishing something you want to do. All four of them could be answers to a question somebody else is asking, but the fourth one can only be an answer because there's so little information contained in it.
     

    dojibear

    Senior Member
    AE (US English)
    Can one say

    a. If you want to do it, you can do it.
    b. If you want it, you can do it.
    c. If you want, you can do it.
    d. If you want, you can.

    ?

    Which means
    1. You have the right to do it, if you choose to.
    and which means
    2. If you really want to do it, you'll manage to do it.
    ?

    The sentences are mine.
    I'd say all of them are more or less ambiguous.

    Yes, all 4 are ambiguous in exactly the way you describe ("permitted to do" or "able to do"). In addition, some are unclear - see the detailed comments in #2.
     
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