Eva Pavlickova

  • Structures containing the noun will

a/ the results of the analysis show that the writers of the examined last wills often use synonyms of the noun intention or the verb intend. One of them is the noun will. Longman Dictionary of English Language and Culture describes the noun will as a strong determination to act in a particular way; as an intention. In some of the examined last wills the structure It is my will that is used to introduce testator’s intention.

ITEM ONE: It is my will that as soon after my death as possible my Executor, hereinafter named, shall pay all my just debts and expenses of burial. (The Will of Joe Jackson)

  • Structures containing the noun wish

The noun wish is defined by Longman Dictionary of English Language and Culture as an attempt to make a particular desired thing or situation happen. In the examined last wills both the noun and the verb wish are used to express what the testator wants to be done after his death.

a/ The noun is used in the structure IT is my wish that:

8 IT is my wish (but without placing them under any binding obligation) that my executors employ the firm of Mishcon de Reya of 21 Southampton Row London WC1B 5HS in obtaining a Grant of Probate to and administering my estate… (The Will of Diana)

It is my wish, however, that in selecting the particular qualified charitable beneficiaries which shall be the recipients of benefits from the Foundation the independent Trustees give preferential consideration to such eligible organization or organizations the purposes and endeavors of which the independent Trustees feel are committed to making a significant difference in the cultural or social betterment of mankind or the relief of human suffering. (The Will of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis)

b/ The noun wish is also found in the structure I express the wish that where the verb express underlines the dynamism of the utterance:

SHOULD any child of mine be under age at the date of the death of the survivor of myself and my husband I APPOINT my mother and my brother EARL SPENCER to be the guardians of that child and I express the wish that should I predecease my husband he will consult with my mother with regard to the upbringing education and welfare of our children… (The Will of Diana)

  • Structures containing the verb wish

a/ According to Longman Dictionary of English Language and Culture the verb wish formally expresses to want. To convey the testator’ intention it is used in the indicative mood present tense with the first person singular pronoun I.

21 WISH to be buried. (The Will of Diana)

b/ In the following last will the verb wish is used with the emphasizing verb do. Do has here the role of an intensifier of the legal act.

I do wish, however, to remember her children and, thus, I direct my Executors to set aside the amount of Five Hundred Thousand Dollars ($500,000) for each child surviving me of my sister, Lee B. Radziwill,… (The Will of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis)

  • Structures containing the noun expectation

Here the noun expectation is understood as a belief that something will happen. It fortifies the importance of the testator’s will execution.

(Accordingly, it is my expectation that the house at Two Marlborough Street owned by the NEWPORT RESTORATION FOUNDATION be used as a rental property since it will no longer be used as office space.) Funds to maintain Rough Point shall be provided by the DORIS DUKE CHARITABLE FOUNDATION as set forth in Article EIGHT hereof. (The Will of Doris Duke)

  • Structures containing the verb expect

In Longman Dictionary of English Language and Culture the following definition of the verb expect is found; ‘think or believe that something will happen; to have or express a strong wish for (something) or that (someone) will do something with the feeling that it is reasonable or necessary. ’ In my view it here replaces the verb intend.

I expect that the DORIS DUKE CHARITABLE FOUNDATION shall provide such a residence for each of NILZA MOORE and GEORGE REED and that the NEWPORT RESTORATION

FOUNDATION shall provide such a residence for BENJAMIN REED. HOPE …(The Will of Doris Duke)

  • Structures containing the verb desire

According to Longman Dictionary of English Language and Culture the verb desire has the following meaning: wish, want, and hope for, very much. I believe that in Princess Diana’s last will it communicates the testator’s wishes and plans.

I DESIRE them (or if only one shall prove her or him)

  • To give effect as soon as possible but not later than two years following my death to any written memorandum or notes of wishes of mine with regard to any of my chattels
  • Subject to any such wishes to hold my chattels (or the balance thereof) in accordance with Clause 5 of this my Will… (The Will of Diana)
    • Structures containing a combination of two nouns with identical meaning (synonyms)

The occurrence of two nouns having identical meanings is observed in the analysed tests. I consider the phenomenon to be repetitions. It is a characteristic feature of legal English. Repetitions are words of the same grammatical category (verbs, adjectives, nouns) with identical or similar meaning joined together by co-ordinating conjunctions and/or or. These pairs of words (or ‘the-same-word-class multi-numbered expressions’) are often collections of words of Latin and/or French origin and an English word; however, they are sometimes of English origin only. The Latin phrase eiusdem generis/ejusdem generis means of the same kind and denotes a rule of legal interpretation, that when a word or a phrase follows two or more other words or phrases, it is construed to be of the same type as the words or phrases which precede it. (Dictionary of Law, 1993: 84) The origin of this kind of repetition seems to have been in the times when French was replacing Latin. A French word was added to a Latin one with the aim of avoiding any misinterpretation. Later when English was replacing French one of the foreign words or both of them was/were replaced with their English synonym/s. In some cases a third word of English origin was added to one or two foreign words. All the words refer to the same item. Crystal (1997: 208) doubts whether they always conveyed the same meaning and calls them ‘synonyms or ‘near synonyms’.

a/ It is my will and intention

Many times the noun intention is used in combination with the noun will in the structure It is my will and intention. It emphasises the performativeness of an utterance.

It is my will and intention that in dealing with the affairs and securities of any corporation in which I shall be interested at the time of my death, either as creditor or stockholder, or with the affairs and securities of any corporation in which my Executors or Trustees, as the case may be, may at any time be interested on behalf of my estate, as creditors or stockholders, my said Executors or Trustees, as the case may be, shall have and may exercise all of the powers that might lawfully be exercised by an individual owning said stock or obligation and acting in his own right and interest. (The Will of Babe Ruth)

b/ It is interesting that the noun hope on its own is not found to introduce the testator’s intention. In the analysed last wills it is used only in combination with the noun expectation. Hope is always used as the first element in the structure It is my hope and expectation. In my view the usage of the two synonyms (hope, expectation) can also make the testator’s intention clearer.

It is my hope and expectation that my Executors and Trustees and the foundations in which I am a member, director, trustee or officer at my death or which are to be created under this Will shall employ as many of these persons as reasonably possible in order to maintain my various properties and to operate these foundations after my death. (The Will of Doris Duke)


In spite of the fact that writers of last wills and testaments try to express intentions explicitly, its interpretation is sometimes troublesome. Thus, it is vital to verbalise the testator’s intention precisely. The findings prove my expectation: despite the fact that certain predetermined forms of expressing the testator’s intention exist, writers of last wills have adequate ‘manoeuvring room’ at their disposal. They continue to employ traditional linguistic forms but they also make use of less established ones.


Bhatia, V. K. (1994), Analysing Genre: Language Use in Professional Settings, New York: Longman Publishing.

Brown, G. and Yule, G. (1983), Discourse Analysis, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Maley, Y. (1994), The language of the law, In: John Gibbons, ed., Language and the Law, New York: Longman Group UK Limited.

Melinkoff, D. (1963), The language of the Law, Boston: Little Brown and Company. Library of Congress Catalogue Card No. 63-17574.

Dictionary of English Language and Culture (1992), Longman: Longman Group UK Limited.

Swales, J.M. (1990), Genre Analysis – English in Academic and Research Settings, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Yule, G. (1996), Pragmatics, Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Dictionary of Law (1993), Teddington, Great Britain: Peter Collin Publishing Ltd. <>, retrieved 17 July, 2010.


PhDr. Eva Pavlickova, PhD., Department of English Language and Literature, Faculty of Humanities and Natural Sciences, Presov University in Presov, Slovakia, e-mail: