Pronunciation of won’t, want

Before we look at the pronunciation of want and won’t, let’s look at how the two words differ in meaning:

  • want means ‘desire something’ or ‘wish for something’: I want to stay here, he wants to speak, etc.
  • won’t is a contraction of ‘will not’, used to express the future: I won’t be here tomorrow, etc.

Here is the difference in pronunciation (you’ll hear that won’t has a longer vowel than want):

spelling phonetic spelling pronunciation
want /wɒnt/ want
won’t (will not) /wəʊnt/ won’t

Tip – listen to what follows!

One way to tell whether the speaker said want or won’t is to listen to the construction that follows:

After won’t we use the bare infinitive:

  • I won’t help
  • She won’t sleep
  • They won’t go.

After want we use to + verb infinitive:

  • I want to help
  • She wants to sleep
  • They want to go.

Listen to these two examples and try to hear the ‘to’ after want:
I won’t have / I want to have .

What is ‘wanna’?

Wanna is a shortened form of want to. It’s used in spoken English—very often in American English—and is informal:

  • I wanna go = ‘I want to go’
  • Do you wanna talk to me? = ‘Do you want to talk to me?’

Be careful! We don’t use wanna with the third person singular (he, she) because of the ‘s’ on the end of the verb:

He wants to go.

He wanna go.

She wants to be.

She wanna be.

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