to be wont to do something

Oletta

Senior Member
I am curious how often do those of you here, who are the native speakers of English, use the expression or if you ever use it....


eg. Gina was wont to go to school every day with her teddy bear.

thanks!
 
  • silverdaizy

    Senior Member
    Canada- English
    eg. Gina was wont to go to school every day with her teddy bear.

    Here we have a real mixture of verb tenses...
    -was: past simple
    -wont (won't/will not): future simple negative
    -to go: infinitive

    It is not possible to mix these tenses together and a native speaker would never say this sentence. I'm assuming that you want to say something like this:

    "Gina wanted to go to school every day with her teddy bear." OR
    "Gina won't go to school every day with her teddy bear."
     

    trevorb

    Senior Member
    UK: English
    Here we have a real mixture of verb tenses...
    -was: past simple
    -wont (won't/will not): future simple negative
    -to go: infinitive

    It is not possible to mix these tenses together and a native speaker would never say this sentence. I'm assuming that you want to say something like this:

    "Gina wanted to go to school every day with her teddy bear." OR
    "Gina won't go to school every day with her teddy bear."

    The original sentence is perfectly correct. See the WR dictionary: http://www.wordreference.com/definition/wont

    However, this usage is pretty infrequent and is probably a little strange in the quoted context. I wouldn't go as far to say that "wont" is archaic, but anyone using it will probably be aware of the slightly poetic effect.

    Other opinions would be welcome!

    Trevor.
     

    Oletta

    Senior Member
    Thanks Trevor.....

    I found the sentence in A Reference Grammar of Modern Italian by Martin Maiden, Professor of the Romance languages, Oxford, UK (and the co author a Professor from Italy) so the sentence must be correct.... I just wondered if "normal" people use it at all:)
     

    Lexiphile

    Senior Member
    England English
    I wouldn't go as far to say that "wont" is archaic, but anyone using it will probably be aware of the slightly poetic effect.

    Good heavens! I'm a poet and didn't know it.

    I use wont quite often, even when I'm being thoroughly prosaic. In fact, I'm wont to use it every day. It's interesting, though, that Silverdaisy didn't recognise the word at all. That could indicate that it has fallen into disuse in America, at least among the under-somethings.

    Edit: whether or not I'm normal is of course debatable.
     

    Oletta

    Senior Member
    Thanks Lexi..... it's good to know that you do use it....Do others use it as frequently as you do? Anyway they must understand you:D.

    Silverdaizy didn't recognise the word at all because for many Americans/Canadians the lack of apostrophe does not mean anything, she considered "wont" to be "won't".....I'm afraid....It's quite regular for them to omit the apostrophe in written language.
     

    Oletta

    Senior Member
    No problem Silverdaizy, and thanks to you I have learnt something more about the nuances between American/Canadian English and British English.
     

    silverdaizy

    Senior Member
    Canada- English
    According to the WR dictionary wont is a noun that means habit or use. So can someone please explain to me how you can be wont???
    In fact, I'm wont to use it every day

    That could indicate that it has fallen into disuse in America, at least among the under-somethings.

    And Lexi, I suppose by calling me an 'under-something', you are referring to my age..? If that's the case then you are right. You would never hear someone my age saying something like that... sorry.
     

    silverdaizy

    Senior Member
    Canada- English
    Oh, ok. Well if that's the case then it makes sense. Thanks for the clarification Oletta! We're all learning something new today! ;)
     

    Oletta

    Senior Member
    Haha, you are right Silverdaizy! Two days ago I was trying to learn about Italian via A Reference Grammar of Modern Italian by Martin Maiden & Cecilia Robustelli and had a good lesson of English at the same time! For me it was also a surprise to see the expression as I studied British Literature for 5 years (in English) 8 years ago and had never encountered the expression before!
     

    Lexiphile

    Senior Member
    England English
    Hi Silverdaizy,
    From the WR dictionary, follow the link to Dictionary.com. There it's all described.

    But its absence from the WR dictionary tends to confirm my observation, that it has fallen out of use in AE (for which read also CE). By the way, my reference to "under-somethings" was not meant as a slight on you age -- I simply don't know when the word became non-current. I also don't know (because I can't remember that far back) if it was in use in the US when I was there, so the under-somethings might well be the under 150's. (My apologies also for automatically, instinctively, changing the spelling of your name to the probable BE form!!:) )

    But to Oletta's question: I don't know if anyone understands my use of wont, or even notices that I have used a potentially archaic expression. They might well get the drift just from the context. But my wife uses it and so does my daughter.
     

    Tegs

    Mód ar líne
    English (Ireland)
    Wont is something you tend to see more in written text, and it is quite literary-sounding, such as:

    "I was wont to take down my father's verses at his dictation. From the task I imbibed some savor of the art of poetry." (In my experience, this sort of thing would not be said in conversation, except if you want to sound extremely cultured, and I might add, a tad pompous, and are talking to a professor of some sort.)

    I would very rarely use wont - for me, saying that adds something to the sentence, a particular feeling - for example, if you want to sound a little old fashioned or pompous, when joking around in a conversation. Say if you were joking about how people with a posh English accent talk, you could put in some quaint words like wont. (Sorry, for those of you who speak like this, but the rest of us tend to think it's a bit funny to copy you - just like my Welsh uncle loves trying to copy my Irish accent - no offense is intended! ;))
     

    Lexiphile

    Senior Member
    England English
    But Tegs, I don't mind at all if you call me pompous, old fashioned, extremely cultured, posh and quaint -- to be sure, at all at all! :D

    But you probably have something there with the old-fashioned bit. A lot of expressions that were rather more common currency 25 years ago (when I last lived in England) than they are now, will almost certainly and quite rightly seem old fashioned to you. But I would still be using them, partly out of simple habit and partly because I have been insulated from the bulk of the changes. The changes don't "rub off" on me if I have only sporadic contact with the UK.

    For all I know, wont may have been pompous (etc.) even when I picked it up.
     

    Tegs

    Mód ar líne
    English (Ireland)
    But Tegs, I don't mind at all if you call me pompous, old fashioned, extremely cultured, posh and quaint -- to be sure, at all at all! :D

    But you probably have something there with the old-fashioned bit. A lot of expressions that were rather more common currency 25 years ago (when I last lived in England) than they are now, will almost certainly and quite rightly seem old fashioned to you. But I would still be using them, partly out of simple habit and partly because I have been insulated from the bulk of the changes. The changes don't "rub off" on me if I have only sporadic contact with the UK.

    For all I know, wont may have been pompous (etc.) even when I picked it up.

    Oops! Well, the good thing is that while implying pompousness is not a complement, quaint and extremely cultured are, right?! :D

    As for your explanation of your use of wont, that makes perfect sense to me. My Welsh-speaking mother left Wales more than 25 years ago, and when I first moved over there to attend university, my friends thought some of the words I said in Welsh were hilarious - my mum used them and they would definitely be considered old fashioned by Welsh speaking 20-somethings! But since I wasn't surrounded by other Welsh-speakers at home, I was, as you say, insulated a bit. So, I understand your plight! ;)
     

    Alacer

    Senior Member
    Russia, Russian
    Well, I'm learning english on advanced level (not native speaker ofcourse!) but I already met this word in our study books..I mean we are learnt it to be a normal word to use and therefore we are (were =) ) aware that in this way of using such word we are going to be understood..!
     

    preppie

    Senior Member
    American English (Mostly MidAtlantic)
    I realize that this is an old topic but i just stumbled upon it. The term 'wont' is still in common usage among speakers in the US. It is not dead.

    << Irrelevant commentary deleted by moderator. >>

    So, wont is still in use.. I use it. I have friends who use it. I read it in novels and papers. And we aren't pompous or stuffy.. Most of us are geeks (I'm a mathematician) but that doesn't imply that we cannot have a love of the richest language in the world !

    But I digress, as i am wont to do.
     
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    mplsray

    Senior Member
    I realize that this is an old topic but i just stumbled upon it. The term 'wont' is still in common usage among speakers in the US. It is not dead.

    I would question your assertion that it is "common usage" here. Certainly, educated Americans are likely to have it in their passive vocabulary, but I would expect that very few of them use it in writing and even fewer in speech.
     

    preppie

    Senior Member
    American English (Mostly MidAtlantic)
    It really depends on with whom you associate and where you live. I'm on the east coast and tend to travel in a well-educated, and slightly older crowd. Clearly, white collar. Most are well read and have occasion to speak publicly. It makes a big difference. I'm not talking Walmart.

    But I don't dumb down my spoken language. When one says "wont" to do, I think others hear "want" to do or "one" to do... and assume we just fumbled on our words: 'As I am one to do' vs 'As I am wont to do' aren't that different to the casual listener and, for all practical purposes, mean the same thing.

    it is not the latest lingo of the text me faster generation but it's still out there !
     

    cuchuflete

    Senior Member
    EEUU-inglés
    I would question your assertion that it is "common usage" here. Certainly, educated Americans are likely to have it in their passive vocabulary, but I would expect that very few of them use it in writing and even fewer in speech.

    Ditto. :)

    With the exception of the late Wm. Buckley and a very few others, people using wont in
    ordinary speech are apt to be perceived—with or without sound motive—as pompous, pretentious and just plain silly.
     

    mgbeach

    New Member
    English-USA (Southern)
    Hi all, this is my first post here; I actually registered specifically to be able to post in this thread.

    I've been an avid reader since a very early age and as a result have acquired what I'd say is an above-average command of the English language. I imagine that is fairly common among members here.

    To the matter at hand...

    I sent an email to a friend and at the end wrote, "well, as I am wont to do, I have rambled on for entirely too long."

    This sparked an exchange in which she tactfully told me that although she was sure it was just a typo, she wanted to make sure I realized that the phrase was "as I am want to do."

    I should mention now that she is a high school Honors English III teacher.

    I immediately called her on the phone. And yes, she was sure as sure can be that the phrase was "as I am want to do." She patronizingly informed me that it was a shorter version of "as it always seems like I want to do."

    I've run into similar situations with her before and it never ends well. I fabricated a critical issue at work, told her I'd have to call her back, and bailed out of the conversation.

    As far as being perceived as pretentious, anyone is welcome to call me whatever makes them feel better about themselves; I have a policy of not catering to the lowest common denominator. I'll save my tale of being called elitist for using semicolons until another day. :)
     

    JulianStuart

    Senior Member
    English (UK then US)
    I sent an email to a friend and at the end wrote, "well, as I am wont to do, I have rambled on for entirely too long."

    Welcome to the forum.

    I have put into boldface the form in which I think most current uses of this word are to be found. "... as X Y wont to do " where X Y is I am, you are, he is, they are, etc. I have rarely seen it outside this specific construction, although it is clearly used in others - like the one above "I was wont to take down my father's verses at his dictation", where it sounds poetic/archaic/pompous/dated etc. In some ways, it might be argued that the word has fallen out of use except in this phrase.
     

    pob14

    Senior Member
    American English
    I agree with mplsray; I'm well-educated, older, and so are most of the people I associate with, and nobody I know uses "wont." We all know what it means, it just isn't in everyday use.
     

    JamesM

    Senior Member
    I agree with mplsray; I'm well-educated, older, and so are most of the people I associate with, and nobody I know uses "wont." We all know what it means, it just isn't in everyday use.

    Another voice in agreement. I am older and fairly well-educated, although not a member of academia. I am aware of the word from reading it in novels. I believe I had one college professor who enjoyed using it and I have one friend who tends to throw antique language into her everyday speech that uses it. I would expect half my friends to know it and not use it and the other half would not even recognize it. Occasionally someone might use it in a joking manner to refer to a personal quirk or habit but it's rare, in my experience.
     

    DadLaC

    Member
    English - US
    Having just discovered this site, I am wont to provide a response that will hopefully clarify some of the earlier discussions. The use of "wont" (notice there is no apostrophe thus this is NOT the contraction won't), as shown in the previous sentence, is a perfectly acceptable grammatical usage. That some attribute it to being "archaic" is a sad commentary on the English education in the US, when in the late sixties the teaching of grammatical English went by the boards and it became acceptable that any form of communication that one used that could be understood, was completely acceptable. Since then we have seen a continual degradation of the language with a greater dependence on the common being acceptable including such words as ain't and slang that should be reserved for the commonplace. Instead we find English that is far from grammatical cropping up in usage by noted news commentators and in what used to be prestigious, well-edited and proofread news media as the New York Times, which has become a mere shadow of its former glory.
     

    JamesM

    Senior Member
    Welcome to the forum, DadLaC!

    This is not really a question of whether it is grammatical or not. I don't see anyone challenging the grammar. It is simply a question of its currency. Would you say that it is commonly spoken in conversation around you? I would be very surprised if it were.
     
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    JulianStuart

    Senior Member
    English (UK then US)
    Having just discovered this site, I am wont to provide a response that will hopefully clarify some of the earlier discussions.
    Welcome Dad!

    I actually don't think you mean you "are accustomed to providing responses that clarify ..." or that you "routinely provide responses that clarify ..." . You simply want to provide such a response - this is not the meaning of wont!

    I tend to agree, however, that education has in many places deteriorated from its state in yesteryear. I also agree with the others that "to be wont to do something" is now pretty rarely used - hence the term "archaic" - which does not mean incorrect, just rarer than before.
     

    JamesM

    Senior Member
    I don't think of it so much archaic as antique. (Is that a distinction only in my mind? I'm doubting my judgment today.) It falls into that category of words and phrases for me that includes "felicitations", "pray tell", "discomfited" and "withal". They are all recognizable and understandable but they sound to me like something from the 19th century. I would not be surprised to encounter them in a novel but I would be surprised to hear them in spoken conversation or even a formal speech today.
     

    JulianStuart

    Senior Member
    English (UK then US)
    James - I was trying to decide what I meant by archaic and went through the same deliberations as you seem to have done. I like "antique" (and its anagram "quainte" :eek:) - perhaps a lot of archaic words are used differently today than when in common use, and that is why the reactions to the use of "archaic" (I wonder what "archaic" used to mean long ago!).
     

    djmc

    Senior Member
    English - United Kingdom
    I normally use it in the expression "as is my wont". For example "On Sundays, as is my wont, I get up early to go out training". It sounds slightly archaic but I think it is fairly common. Both I and my husband sometimes make puns contrasting "won't" and wont.
     

    JulianStuart

    Senior Member
    English (UK then US)
    I normally use it in the expression "as is my wont". For example "On Sundays, as is my wont, I get up early to go out training". It sounds slightly archaic but I think it is fairly common. Both I and my husband sometimes make puns contrasting "won't" and wont.

    Thanks - I should have included that in my post 26
    "As I am wont to do, ..." and "As is my wont, ..." are the two remaining usages. Otherwise I won't want to use it.
     

    DadLaC

    Member
    English - US
    Welcome Dad!

    I actually don't think you mean you "are accustomed to providing responses that clarify ..." or that you "routinely provide responses that clarify ..." . You simply want to provide such a response - this is not the meaning of wont!

    I tend to agree, however, that education has in many places deteriorated from its state in yesteryear. I also agree with the others that "to be wont to do something" is now pretty rarely used - hence the term "archaic" - which does not mean incorrect, just rarer than before.

    Actually, I am quite "accustomed to providing responses that clarify"...comes from having been a tech writer years ago.

    Welcome to the forum, DadLaC!

    This is not really a question of whether it is grammatical or not. I don't see anyone challenging the grammar. It is simply a question of its currency. Would you say that it is commonly spoken in conversation around you? I would be very surprised if it were.

    There were some comments regarding "wont" versus "won't" in the usage, which would throw it into an issue of grammar.

    I agree with mplsray; I'm well-educated, older, and so are most of the people I associate with, and nobody I know uses "wont." We all know what it means, it just isn't in everyday use.
    Well pob14, let me introduce myself to you. Now you can say that indeed you at least know someone who uses wont.
     
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    JulianStuart

    Senior Member
    English (UK then US)
    Actually, I am quite "accustomed to providing responses that clarify"...comes from having been a tech writer years ago.
    We are happy for you to join us if you routinely clarify issues in general, as is your wont. :D
    However I should have been clearer:
    I actually don't think you mean you "I am wont accustomed to provide a response that will hopefully clarify some of the earlier discussions." (unless your routine responses will always be explaining these particular earlier discussions!)
     

    DadLaC

    Member
    English - US
    We are happy for you to join us if you routinely clarify issues in general, as is your wont. :D
    However I should have been clearer:
    I actually don't think you mean you "I am wont accustomed to provide a response that will hopefully clarify some of the earlier discussions." (unless your routine responses will always be explaining these particular earlier discussions!)
    Well, actually, I am really desirous (another archaic usage??) of providing clarifications, I stand on what I originally wrote as being correct in every sense.

    I don't think of it so much archaic as antique. (Is that a distinction only in my mind? I'm doubting my judgment today.) It falls into that category of words and phrases for me that includes "felicitations", "pray tell", "discomfited" and "withal". They are all recognizable and understandable but they sound to me like something from the 19th century. I would not be surprised to encounter them in a novel but I would be surprised to hear them in spoken conversation or even a formal speech today.
    Ouch! I never thought of myself as being antique in any way, though some of those who are now thirty-something might think so. As for the use of "pray tell," "discomfited," and "withal" I must admit to using them on occasion, though "felicitations," although a good word, is not a word that I have ever used.
     
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    ekbatana

    Senior Member
    German Austria
    I stumble accross it in novels - both contemporary and of older vintage - (eg. Wilbur Smith and George Orwell novels) as well as in American legal articles quite frequently, so this expression is far from going extinct and will - thanks to literature - never go away.
     

    sashiman

    New Member
    English
    Ha! Luckily, I'm wont to find my pronunciation wanting and so won't feel diminished by having just learned that "wont" was a homophone of "won't" for most of the authors who taught me the spelling of the word. (Apparently, even in the US want and wont are not always homophones -- if the OED advanced learners is to be believed for North American English pronunciation.)

    Pretty sure Safire and Will pronounced it as a homophone of "want" though. :)
     

    hankrearden

    New Member
    English - American
    I just got an email from a fellow American using - or rather misusing - the word wont. He used the word "want" where he meant to say "wont". But the important point is that he used the word - in an email to me - in 2012 - and he used it correctly in meaning - if not in spelling - and I knew what he wanted (wonted?) to say. I've used this word a number of times before in my life, but I certainly don't use it every day. Not even once a year. But it's there when I need it.
     

    lagatta

    New Member
    Québec French/English
    Hein? I live in Montréal, and would certainly mark an omitted apostrophe as an error.

    "Wont" and "won't" aren't even pronounced the same.

    I just used "wont to" in writing something today; to my mind it is a perfectly normal word, but perhaps literary.
     

    Correctrix

    Member
    Standard English
    "Wont" and "won't" aren't even pronounced the same.
    I take it you mispronounce "wont" as "want", as I was once wont to do, having seen it mostly in books. I then learnt that it is a homophone of "won't". Just look it up.

    This word has become one that I am hesitant to use these days, as I find that ignorant people will think that I have misspelt "want" or "won't". It's like the finer uses of "effect" and "affect": nine times out of ten, your carefully correct usage will be thought to be a blunder by someone with just enough knowledge to think they know when someone else is wrong, but not enough knowledge to actually know when someone else is wrong.
     

    JamesM

    Senior Member
    Merriam-Webster gives four pronunciations, but the first pronunciation and the recorded example is a homophone of "want", not "won't".
    http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/wont

    The same is true for the American Heritage online dictionary. https://www.ahdictionary.com/word/search.html?q=wont&submit.x=0&submit.y=0

    The Collins online dictionary shows "wont" in American English to be a homophone of "want". In British English it is a homophone of "won't'".

    So, its pronunciation depends on the variety of English you speak.
     

    mplsray

    Senior Member
    Merriam-Webster gives four pronunciations, but the first pronunciation and the recorded example is a homophone of "want", not "won't".
    http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/wont

    The same is true for the American Heritage online dictionary. https://www.ahdictionary.com/word/search.html?q=wont&submit.x=0&submit.y=0

    The Collins online dictionary shows "wont" in American English to be a homophone of "want". In British English it is a homophone of "won't'".

    So, its pronunciation depends on the variety of English you speak.

    The usage note for the American Heritage entry points out that the "most traditionally correct" American pronunciation of wont rhymed with hunt. This can be seen in the Century Dictionary, an American dictionary from about 1895, which gives the pronunciation rhyming with hunt as the sole pronunciation.

    The American Heritage usage note says that pronunciation "may strike some listeners as odd or affected." In my case, it strikes me as odd. That it might sound affected would never have occurred to me before reading that note.
     
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    JamesM

    Senior Member
    The usage note for the American Heritage entry points out that the "most traditionally correct" American pronunciation of wont rhymed with hunt.


    However, the very next line in that same note is:

    However, the most common form of wont in contemporary American speech is probably (wônt), which to most people's ears sounds similar to (or even identical with) the word want.
     

    wandle

    Senior Member
    English - British
    Have we not had a previous thread showing that for many Americans 'want' rhymes with 'hunt'?

    As to the usage of the expression, I have seen it and heard it (rhyming with 'won't') countless times.
    'As is my wont' is probably more frequent than 'as I am loth to do' (long 'o' again), but both have a similar distancing effect compared with saying 'as I like to do' or 'do not like to do'. This distancing is often ironic or apologetic.
     
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    mplsray

    Senior Member
    When I said that I found the pronunciation of wont rhyming with hunt to be odd, I should have added that I am sorely tempted to consider it to be flat wrong. I certainly would never advise a student learning American pronunciation to use it. (In addition, I would advise against them learning the pronunciation rhyming with won't as well, although that appears to be the pronunciation they should learn if they are instead learning British pronunciation.)

    On the other hand, Merriam-Webster would only give the four different pronunciations that they did if they had the evidence that there were indeed educated Americans who used them.

    I would note that for those Americans, like me, for whom cot sounds like caught, two of the pronunciations previously mentioned, the ones which rhyme with want,​ are homophones: /wɑnt/ in the International Phonetic Alphabet.

    Correction: I misread wandle's post, thinking he had written that for many Americans wont rhymes with hunt, when instead he was pointing out that want can rhyme with hunt. This shows why it is preferable to use the International Phonetic Alphabet when discussing pronunciation rather than saying such-and-such a word rhymes with such-and-such-another word.
     
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