I would do it if I wanted to.

I would do it if I wanted.

Why is to used after the verb? Only to give emphasis? Is there a difference in the meanings of the above sentences?

  • 1
    A little thought would clarify. "I would do it if I wanted to (do it)."
    – Kris
    Jan 11, 2012 at 10:01
  • Another hit and run by a downvoter. Jan 11, 2012 at 10:10
  • 1
    Here I am, very much. I did post a comment; and now added this too to reflect the -1.
    – Kris
    Jan 11, 2012 at 10:12
  • What is the exact reason of your -1? I can reword my question if you think that it is incomplete. Jan 11, 2012 at 10:17
  • 2
    Lack of background research. The ellipsis has been discussed numerous times on englishSE. Apart from that, this one is a classic example of an ellipsis widely used in conversation, which also means it is widely known and understood. If the question were structured in a more technical (linguistics point of view), that would have merited a researched answer. My intention is NOT to discourage, only to disqualify. So, no offense meant whatever.
    – Kris
    Jan 11, 2012 at 10:23

2 Answers 2


It's an example of ellipsis, where words aren't repeated because they're understood. The full sentence would be 'I would do it if I wanted to do it', but it's unnecessary to include the last two words. 'I would do it if I wanted' is also possible, but the final 'to' is more likely to be found, if only in conversation. I'm not sure why that is so, but it may be because the sentence sounds rather blunt without it.

  • 1
    +1 But the OP's question seems to be, why only the last two words are unnecessary in an ellipsis, why not the last three!
    – Kris
    Jan 11, 2012 at 10:03
  • Also, the final to is found even in writing, only in conversation, to some extent at least.
    – Kris
    Jan 11, 2012 at 10:04
  • 1
    @Kris: The last three are unnecessary, but the retention of 'to' is optional. I've expanded my answer with a bit of speculation. And, yes, I'm sure it's found in writing, too, but perhaps not in the most formal kinds. Jan 11, 2012 at 10:08
  • Admittedly, discarding just the last word here sounds slightly odd, but I can't see it's syntactically any different to, say, "I'll go there if I want to go", where you can discard one, two, or all three of "to go there". Jan 11, 2012 at 15:24
  • @FumbleFingers: 'If I want', tout court, is what a child might say: 'Can if I want'. The full Monty is seldom required, leaving the elliptical 'if I want to' to occupy the Goldilocks zone. Jan 11, 2012 at 16:20

I think I would do it if I wanted to. is really a shorter spoken way for a more appropriate I would do it if I wanted to do it.

The possibilities would be (as javaDisciple pointed out), I would action1 if I wanted to action1/other action

In general use, I think, ending with a to would just imply that the same action is to follow. i.e, I would action1 if I wanted to action1

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