Is there a single word that means: to like an aspect something larger, but to dislike the whole thing?

As an example, someone might say, "I'd like to be fit", meaning that they would genuinely like the benefits of being fit, but omitting the fact that the only thing stopping them from being fit is that they don't like exercise. That is, they they would like to be fit if it didn't involve exercise.

For simplicity, I'm going to use 'half-like' as a place holder in a few more examples.

  • "I'd half-like to buy that new car", meaning "I'd like to buy that new car (if I could find it cheaper)".

  • "I'd half-like to be paid more", meaning "I'd like to be paid more (but I don't want to work harder)".

  • "I'd half-like to learn a language", meaning "I'd like to learn a language (but there's so much to watch on TV)".

  • "I'd half-like to retire", meaning "I'd like to retire (but I'd miss my colleagues)".

I'd prefer a non-judgemental term but any single word that has this meaning would be appreciated, even a word in another language.

As per comments, in spoken English, this can be expressed using stresses and pauses.

  • "I would like to buy that car ...", meaning the same as the above; the stress serving to draw attention to the implicit "but".

Also as per comments (thank you all), this can be expressed by adding a few extra words, for example "quite like", or "like the idea of ...", or by making explicit the overriding "but ...".

I'm coming to suspect that there may not be a single word that captures what I want, but that there might be several single words that capture different variations of what I want.

In the above samples, if the speaker is aware of the conflict between what they want and what they don't want, then as per Jason and user888379, they could say "I'm ambivalent about ..." or "I'm conflicted about ...", and especially so if the desires are closely balanced.

But if the person doesn't accept the conflict, then those constructs don't work as well.

To rework the previous examples:

  • "He half-wants to be fit."
  • "He'd half-like to buy that new car."
  • "He half-wants to be paid more."
  • "He half-wants to learn a language."
  • "He'd half-like to retire"

"Dreams of" might work, though it doesn't distinguish between "can't" and "could but won't". "Dreams of" could even be used for a person who is working towards a goal, which isn't the intent I want to convey.

"likes the idea of" could work too, though it isn't perfect either. It doesn't distinguish between a weak inclination towards something and a strong inclination countered by an even stronger disinclination.

"deluded", "denial" or more kindly, "unaware" are all potentially applicable, but they would describe the person themselves, rather than their half-want for something.

You could use "unrealistically wants", but it would be a clumsy construction, and perhaps imply an impossible desire, rather than one that would be possible, if the person wanted it a bit more.

"Supposedly wants" is maybe a better expression of this key concept I want to capture: the difference between 'expressed opinion' and 'observed behaviour', the "he's just not that into you" factor, a word to describe someone complaining that they want something that is actually within their power to have, if they really wanted it as badly as they claim to want it.

There's a noun, "velleity", that means either "the lowest degree of volition" or "a slight wish or tendency"1, , sometimes expressed as "a mere wish, unaccompanied by an effort to obtain it"2 or "a wish or inclination that is so insignificant that a person feels little or no compulsion to act." Even that's not quite what I want, because it's not that the volition is necessarily ultra-low, but rather that the volition is too low to motivate the necessary action. And it's a noun. I realise, any noun can be verbed, but it's so obscure, it'd only cause confusion.

  • 1
    Just say I would like to do it [but the downsides put me off] - optionally stressing the words would and/or like. Commented Apr 16, 2019 at 13:37
  • 1
    "I'd quite like to ..."
    – user323578
    Commented Apr 16, 2019 at 13:46
  • 2
    "Ambivalent" captures the mixed-feelings part of what you're looking for, but leaves you needing to spell out the pros and cons of the choice.
    – user888379
    Commented Apr 16, 2019 at 14:24
  • I like "quite like". It's not unambiguous, but it makes clear that there is an unstated but important qualification. Using stress and pauses works in spoken language, not so well on a page. There is an aspect of being ambivalence here, but that the speaker isn't ultimately ambivalent - as much as they like the idea of X, the dislike is of the cost of X leads to a clear decision against X. Commented Apr 16, 2019 at 14:49
  • There is also the idiom "curate's egg" which means something that is good in parts: collinsdictionary.com/dictionary/english/curates-egg
    – user323578
    Commented Apr 16, 2019 at 16:49

3 Answers 3


I would say that you have mixed feelings:

: conflicting feelings or emotions
// I'm having mixed feelings about the planned trip.

You like some aspects of something, but not others. Therefore, you are conflicted. This is not the same thing as being neutral or not caring.

With your sentences:

I'm having mixed feelings about (buying that new car / being paid more / learning a language / retiring).

  • Yes to there being conflict in the sense of opposing desires. But no to 'conflicted', because the conflicting desires are not evenly balanced. It's not about indecision, it's more about regret at not being able to have it all, or (with less self awareness) a desire to have just the nice bit and resentment at not being able to have it because (how unfair) it's attached to something else. 'Mixed feelings' might work sometimes, especially if someone is trying to gently say "I don't want what you want me to want" - not really mixed, but using those words as a soft way of saying no. Commented Apr 17, 2019 at 7:41
  • @BenAveling The idea of mixed feelings does not imply evenly balanced. I can easily decide to do something, have a slight regret about something that caused, and still have mixed feelings. Having two feelings, one negative and one positive, even if one is stronger than the other, still means that your feelings are mixed. A grownup having an arm wrestling contest with a child is still involved in conflict, even if the outcome is certain. Commented Apr 17, 2019 at 13:53
  • I see what you're saying - which makes me realise that I still haven't quite captured what I want in my write-up of the question. (Of course, if I could have done that perfectly in the first place, I wouldn't have had to ask the question.) You've given me what I asked for, which is not quite what I want. Mixed feelings implies that the person understands and accepts the conflict. But I'm just as much looking for the situation where the person either denies the conflict, or is unaware of it. And I don't think mixed feelings captures that. I'll edit the question again. Thanks. Commented Apr 18, 2019 at 12:35

I would say "I tend to ..."

According to Collin's Dictionary :

"You can say that you tend to think something when you want to give your opinion,

but do not want it to seem too forceful  or definite."

  • In this case, I don't think "tend" works. It qualifies the following clause, but only somewhat. Saying "I tend to have eggs for breakfast" means "I don't always have eggs for breakfast, but more often than not, I do". Commented Apr 16, 2019 at 15:04

These words may do the trick

"Kinda" or "kind of"

"Partly" or "Partially"


"To a certain extent"

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