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"wanna" construction


Both these songs were written by John Lennon and Paul McCartney in 1963; only the second one employs the "wanna" construction.


A linguistic phenomenon involving the contracted form of "want to."

As explained below, in certain wh-questions, the use of wanna is constrained. This principle also applies to the contracted forms of have to (halfta), used to (usta), and supposed to (sposta).

See also:

Examples and Observations:

  • "[C]ontraction of want and to is prohibited before an intransitive verb, but contraction is optional (permissible, though not required) when the verb that follows is transitive, as long as the object is not overtly mentioned in the question.

    " . . . Read the following sentences aloud. Be sure to pronounce the wanna in the first example, and omit the 'answers' on the first reading.
    (8) a. Who do you think the Red Sox will wanna play first?
    (Answer: anyone but the Oakland A's)

    (8) b. Who do you think the Red Sox will want to play first?
    (Answer: anyone but Bill Buckner)
    If we are correct, you should have interpreted the word first in the first example as an ordinal. The question asks about the first team that the Red Sox will want to face. The second question with first also permits this interpretation, but the word first may also be interpreted as a noun in the second question, shorthand for first base."
    (Stephen Crain and Diane Lillo-Martin, An Introduction to Linguistic Theory and Language Acquisition. Blackwell, 1999)

  • Hurley: You're not crazy, dude. Not even close. You just need to get back to the island, that's all. It's where you belong. It's where you've always belonged.
    Walt: Why?
    Hurley: I wanna talk to you about a job.
    ("Epilogue: The New Man in Charge," Lost, 2010)

  • "There are limits to what we can do. There should be. Willow doesn't wanna believe that. And now she's messing with dark forces that wanna hurt her. All of us."
    (Sarah Michelle Gellar as Buffy in "Villains." Buffy the Vampire Slayer, 2002)

  • "When I first got this job, I usta go home nights and study grammar. I thought it might help me if I talked better. But after goin' out with a couple of these apes around here, I threw the grammar out the window and went in for self-defense."
    (Arline Judge as Dora Swale in The Age of Consent, 1932)

  • "A half-wave antenna for that'd halfta be 9 miles high, or long, and even folded here and there it is still some antenna."
    (Thomas Pynchon, Gravity's Rainbow, 1973)

  • "You wanna just make sure there's a good amount of protein per serving."
    (Anonymous comment in an online forum)

  • "You wanna just make sure can be paraphrased as make sure (cf. Quirk et al. 1985: 148). It could be argued that the want to/wanna construction essentially goes back to an indirect speech act motivated by politeness, and is now gradually being conventionalized in regular discourse as a kind of emerging modal (cf. Krug 2000: 148 ff); Quirk et al. (1985: 148) also mention that wanna 'is particularly conventionalized in informal usage.'"
    (Alexander Bergs and Lena Heine, Mood in English. Mood in the Languages of Europe, ed. by Björn Rothstein and Rolf Thieroff. John Benjamins, 2010)
Also Known As: wanna construction
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