propensity vs. willingness

reka39

Banned
Italian
Hello!
Are propensity and willingness close substitutes? Is the same thing talking about the "propensity to vote" and the "willingness to vote"? I want to express the idea that a citizen wants to express this opinion showing up at polls. In other words, he cares about politics and he fondly believes that elections are useful and for that reason is irresponsable to abstain. He wants to exploit this right. Which word should I use for express this idea then?
Thank you!
 
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  • djmc

    Senior Member
    English - United Kingdom
    The two are not really very similar. Propensity means tendency and is often used of tendencies which are totally involuntary as "I have a propensity to sprain my ankle when I run, so I avoid running". One may say of people, or normally groups of people that they have a propensity to vote for a particular party, "the workers have a propensity to vote for the socialists", but it rather means that they have always done so, and would still tend to do so.
     

    redgiant

    Senior Member
    Cantonese, Hong Kong
    "When I was young, I had a personal propensity for sensation-seeking drive"

    In this case, does it mean that the propensity was totally involuntary that he couldn't control himself? If I wanted to imply he did so of his own volition, would "tendency" be a better word?
     

    pachanga7

    Senior Member
    English - US
    Hello,

    In case anyone is still interested:

    Propensity is formal word and infrequently used. It refers to what is likely to happen, regardless of its cause:

    Teenage parties, when the parents aren’t around, have a propensity for getting out of hand. /tendency to get

    Willingness is used more frequently. It refers to a person’s mental state, that the person does not oppose doing something, whether or not they are enthusiastic:

    I am willing to help you move your things as long as I can get home in time to watch the game.
    I appreciate your willingness to help.

    In the case of the eager voter, neither is quite right. Instead you could say

    He is a diehard voter. He is a faithful/dedicated voter. He is enthusiastic about exercising his voting rights.

    "When I was young, I had a personal propensity for sensation-seeking drive"

    In this case, does it mean that the propensity was totally involuntary that he couldn't control himself? If I wanted to imply he did so of his own volition, would "tendency" be a better word?
    The final word in the original quote is redundant. We have a propensity for something or we have a drive to do something, but we don’t have a propensity for a drive.

    Neither tendency nor propensity tells us that something is voluntary. But nor is it something totally involuntary. Here the speaker is implying that it was an inborn trait or something he learned to like, and that he enjoyed the thrilling activities.
     

    ain'ttranslationfun?

    Senior Member
    US English
    In My Opinion, "propensity" - natural/inherent tendency, bent, inclination; "willingness" - the meaning is shown in the underlined part - it's voluntary. You may not necessarily want (be willing) to do something, but you are likely to do it anyway, because that's just the way you are. "I have to be on guard against an unfortunate propensity to (verb)."

    In other words, I basically agree with pachanga7, except that I don't think it's something the person learned to like.
     
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