We use the verb want to talk about wishes and needs, and to give advice:
What do you want for dinner tonight? (wish or desire)
The kitchen wants painting. (needs)
You want to get your tickets soon before they’re all sold out. (I advise you to)
Most uses of want involve the simple forms of the verb (want, wants, wanted). When we are talking about wishes or desires we can also use the continuous form (is wanting, was wanting, will be wanting).
Want meaning ‘wish’ or ‘desire’
We always follow want with a complement of some kind. The complement completes the meaning of the clause. The complement can be a noun or pronoun as an object, or a verb in the to-infinitive form, or an object plus a verb in the to-infinitive form:
D’youwanta drink? I’ve just made some coffee. (noun object)
Oh, yes, please.
Not: D’you want?
She said I could have her old bike, but I don’t want it. (pronoun object)
Not: … but I don’t want.
This is a new kind of fruit juice I got. D’you want to try it? (to-infinitive)
Not: Do you want try it?
The teacher wants her to do the exams again next year. (object + to-infinitive)
Not: The teacher wants that she does the exams …
In reduced clauses (e.g. short answers), we can use the to without its verb:
Is Elsa going to France with you?
No. She doesn’twantto. (She doesn’t want to go [to France].)
Not: She doesn’t want.
He wanted to leave school at sixteen, but his parents didn’t want him to.
We don’t use want with a that-clause:
I want you to tidy your room before the visitors come.
Not: I want that you tidy your room …
Want with wh-words (whatever you want)
We can use wh-words such as what, when, whenever, wherever, whoever before want. In such cases, it is often not necessary to use the infinitive to after want:
You don’t have to stay for the whole lecture. You can leave whenever you want. (or … whenever youwant to.)
Would you like some of these carrots from our garden?
Oh, yes, please.
Want with if
In statements with if, it is often not necessary to use the infinitive to after want:
She can park her car at our house, if she wants.
However, we use the infinitive to after want in negative clauses with if:
He doesn’t have to stay the night if he doesn’twant to.
Want in the continuous form
We can use want in the continuous form to show indirectness or politeness:
We’rewantingto buy a new TV, but we’re not sure what to get.
Okay, sir. Let me show you some of them.
I waswanting to ask you something. Are you free right now?
We can also use the continuous form to emphasise an ongoing or repeated process:
We’dbeenwanting to go to New Zealand for years, so his sixtieth birthday was a good excuse.
Now that she’s a teenager she’swanting expensive things, you know, computers, clothes, sports stuff.
Want meaning ‘need’
We can use want with the -ing form of a verb to say that something is necessary or should be done. This usage is quite informal:
Your hair wantscutting. (needs to be cut)
That cupboard wantsclearing out.
In informal situations, we can also use want + -ing in a similar way to the construction have something done:
Have you got any shirts you wantwashing? (which you want to have washed)
Want for advice and warnings
In informal situations, we can use want plus the to-infinitive to advise, recommend or warn. It is almost always in the present simple, but we can also use it with ’ll (the short form of will):
You want to be careful riding your bike in town. There’ve been some bad accidents lately. (you should be careful)
What you’ll want to do, you’ll want to take that bit off and clean it with oil or something.