Ever Wonder Why the Contraction for Will Not Isn’t “Willn’t”? We Know the Reason

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Why is the Contraction for Will Not “Won’t”?

Like many grammar rules in the English language, using “won’t” as the contraction for “will not” doesn’t make a lot of sense. If we formed it like most other contractions, the result would be “willn’t.” Admittedly, that is a bit more difficult to say than “willn’t,” but come on, English language. What’s the deal?

Blame our European ancestors. Centuries ago, the Ye Olde English verb willan (which meant to wish or will) had two forms: wil- for the present tense and wold- for the past tense. But as time went on, the pronunciation of these verbs kept changing, from “wool” to “wel” to “woll” to “ool.” (Here are 10 obsolete yet colourful words.)

By the 16th century, there was finally some consensus on the preferred versions of this pesky word. Wil- became the familiar “will,” and wold- became our “would.” But the most popular form of the negative verb became “woll not,” which was contracted to “wonnot,” which modern English turned into “won’t.” (Spell check won’t catch these nine spelling and grammar mistakes.)

So contracting “will not” the logical way may not be so logical after all.

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Originally Published on Reader's Digest