English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

For example, there is a course (say French course), for students in a college. The students can take it, but they don't have to. Someone, who is not a student in that college, thinks that this course is optional. But he saw, on a student's facebook wall, that "I have a french course." So he wants to ask this student that if this course is optional.

Of course he can just ask: Is this course elective/optional?

But the above is just an example to describe the words or the expressions that I need: An expression that says One can choose to do a particular thing by his own willing.

There is a constrain for such expressions:

If a thing breaks the law or the rules (of a society, company, school...), then we can't use this expression for such a thing.

I am not sure if ... can do...by ...own willing is a common expression for this. Furthermore, is there any other/short way to express this?

share|improve this question
up vote 4 down vote accepted

You can use the expression "You can do it of your own free will" or "You can do it of your own volition", or simply "It is voluntary", in other words, "It is not compulsory", to describe things that are volitional.

share|improve this answer
“… of your own free will” might be more idiomatic. – Scott Mar 11 '13 at 17:51
@Scott Yes. Thanks for pointing that out. That is definitely more idiomatic and that was what I wrote previously.. After some rephrasing I accidentally omitted the adjective free. – nyan nyan nyan Mar 12 '13 at 6:04

"By... own willing" does not even exist as a way of saying this. It is not a usable phrase, and you should eliminate it as something you would ever say or write.

To come close to the concept you want, you might want to use "of one's own accord," or "on one's own initiative."

share|improve this answer

Even simpler: delete “By ... own willing” from the phrase in the question, and end with “One can choose to do a particular thing.”  For example, “Did you choose to take that French course?”

In some situations, where freedom of choice might be assumed to be obvious, this might be interpreted to mean, “Did you do that particular thing?”  For example, “Did you choose to have wine with dinner?”  To place the emphasis on the elective aspect of the behavior, one might ask, “Did you take that French course by choice?”

P.S. “I have a French course” is not common usage; one would say “I have taken a French course”, “I have studied French”, or perhaps even “I have taken French.”  (Or, using simple past tense, “I took a French course”, etc.)

share|improve this answer

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.