Is this the correct use and placement of want?

The girls in the office are want to gossip.

Does anyone have a reference citing this use?

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    @Kris That's an exceedingly pedantic position to take. Given that the question is about the usage of the word "want", it would be a leap to assume she meant to use the word "potato". It is not, however, a leap to assume she meant to use the word "wont". Steering her in that direction is not digressive, it's helpful. – lordcheeto Oct 10 '12 at 9:47
  • @lordcheeto I respect your opinion. – Kris Oct 10 '12 at 9:52
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    @Kris There are many ways that the OP's sentence could have arisen, but it's most likely to me that this is a transcription error or an eggcorn on wont/want. We can add/remove other words as much as we want, but it is my wont to first assume that the words are where they should be. In that case, a simple spelling error on an unfamiliar word explains it all. Otherwise we have to try to guess what other errors have crept into this transcription. Finally, the line about "a ref citing this use" suggests that She is reporting this usage and asking about it, not making a new, ungrammatical sentence. – Mr. Shiny and New 安宇 Oct 10 '12 at 11:41
  • Will the OP kindly peruse the answers and acknowledge, maybe? :) – Kris Nov 10 '12 at 10:10
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    This question has been answered, there can be no other alternative answer, there is no scope for detailed thoughtful discussion. Let's just close this question. – Mari-Lou A Nov 5 '14 at 4:10

It should be "are wont to gossip", which means they are likely or inclined to gossip.

Oxford Dictionaries Online gives

(Of a person) in the habit of doing something; accustomed: he was wont to arise at 5.30 every morning

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    @Markus As a native speaker, I'd say that this makes complete sense but seems extremely old-fashioned. – Lily Chung Oct 9 '12 at 18:20
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    I would say that it's an elegant way to say it, but not old-fashioned or outdated. Except insofar as we live in a crass, classless age. – Chris B. Behrens Oct 9 '12 at 19:57
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    @Svish: Allow me to translate into ultra-modern English: "The girls in the office, like, gossip all the time!" – J.R. Oct 9 '12 at 20:17
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    I agree with Horatio that it's "slightly archaic" & will add that it's slightly pretentious (which means that some of us use it precisely because it's pretentious {as a joke}, & some of us think it's normal, everyday English--but it's not: it's used only by educated speakers). A Google ngram shows a precipitous drop from the 1860s, from insignificant to super insignificant usage in those 152 years. – user21497 Oct 9 '12 at 22:55
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    The guys, apparently, are wont to chat in comments instead of in "chat". – Max Vernon Oct 10 '12 at 2:24

The usage "are want" is not correct.

There are lots of ways to fix the sentence so that it is grammatical, but the appropriate fix can't be determined with the information we have.

  • The simplest fix might be simply deleting the word "are". The girls want to gossip. This turns the sentence into a statement about the present, with no implications about any past or future intentions.

  • Others have pointed out that replacing "want" with the (near-)homophone† "wont" fixes the sentence. The girls are now inclined to gossip whenever the occasion is right, but may not be gossiping now (though the implication is that they probably are gossiping).

  • Replacing "are" with "all" also fixes the grammar. The "all" now provides emphasis; there is not even one girl who doesn't want to gossip right now.

I could go on...

† In many English dialects, "wont" is a perfect homophone of "want" – both words sound identical in normal use.

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    +1 "I could go on...": Yes. We could have saved a lot of breath asking the OP to clarify first, though. :) – Kris Oct 10 '12 at 9:42
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    But, per the SE ethos, this provides a thorough answer for future readers - even if it goes beyond what the OP wanted. – hunter2 Jul 16 '13 at 7:29

The girls in the office are wont to gossip.

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    You have the right word, a minute and a half later than the first answer. If you had included a link and definition and the other had not, I'd upvote your answer instead of the other; but it's not so. – James Waldby - jwpat7 Oct 9 '12 at 17:29

Isn't this a typo of 'The girls in office are wont to gossip."?

“Genius English Japanese Dictionary” at hand defines “wont” as (1) adjective meaning ‘accustomed to’ and (2) noun meaning ‘habit’ and ‘custom.’ Thus I interpret the expression, ‘The girls in the office are wont to gossip” is similar to “The girls in office are apt (or inclined) to gossip”.

Though I’m not sure the following instance is relevant to the above usage, I found the case of 'wont' being used in (2) of the above in the article titled “Blunders and Binders” in October 17 New York Times:

“Obama called Romney out on things that were “not true” — a phrase he used in some form at least six times. Romney, for his part, committed unforced errors, as is his wont.”

Also I found the “be wont to do” pattern in the answer to one of my questions in EL&U:

“That's what I'd assume from Dowd's account, but I could be wrong about that, and Ms. Dowd may just be piling on with dramatic words, as she is often wont to do.”

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    You've answered so few questions this one is bound to get viewed by the curious! Have a look at this question to decide if you're happy with my minor edit. – FumbleFingers Nov 10 '12 at 2:25

"want" is just a common "eggcorn" or indeed, simply, a common typo for "wont"

"wont" is a somewhat archaic or unusual word, but, so what? The same can be said of almost any word which often gets "eggcorned" today (tenterhooks, intents, etc).

Note that the form

"_ _ _ _, as is his wont"

is still fairly common. (Indeed, when that is used, I'm sure that 80% of the time the user is so silly they think the word is "want" - but so what? "Eggcorns" are common in English today.)


The problem is not with want, but with are. If you replace are with all the sentence is correct:

The girls in the office all want to gossip.

As to your question whether anyone has a reference citing this use — well, this is a common office thing to gossip and rarely is it limited to just girls.

  • Is this the correct use and placement of want? Then the answer is Yes, but the use of are is wrong and needs to be replace with something like all or only to be a correct sentence. – Tigger Oct 10 '12 at 3:06
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    This means something completely different. "all want" is NOT the same as "are wont". – user16269 Oct 10 '12 at 3:48
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    Yep, got it now and understand where I went wrong. Sorry people, I really misinterpreted the question. – Tigger Oct 10 '12 at 5:36
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    There's no reason for down votes here. It's not necessary to surmise that the writer's error was in want, which is but one of the possibilities. Though it is easy to make the mistake of presuming so, thinking of it as the most plausible, most obvious of all options. This answer provides one of the plausible alternatives and is not wrong in any sense. Merely dropping are would be enough to make OP's sentence grammatical and meaningful. – Kris Oct 10 '12 at 9:06
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    @DavidWallace OP did not say "are wont" -- that was our conjecture prompted by a presumed error. Why would not the intended sentence be "girls want to gossip"? Objectivity is important. – Kris Oct 10 '12 at 9:08

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