Vouloir – to want

Vouloir - to want
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Wanting a French verb

The French verb vouloir usually means "to want" and has irregular conjugations in just about every tense and mood.

Vouloir = to want

Je veux être médecin.   I want to be a doctor.
Il veut plus d’argent.   He wants more money.

Vouloir = request

You can use vouloir to soften a request in three different ways:

Ask a question

Voulez-vous vous patienter, s’il vous plaît ?   Will you wait, please?
Est-ce que tu veux passer le riz ?   Will you pass the rice?

Use the conditional

Je voudrais un sandwich.   I’d like a sandwich.
Nous voudrions deux cafés, s’il vous plaît.   We’d like two coffees, please.

 In contrast, j’aimerais is more theoretical, expressing something you would like but aren’t necessarily trying to obtain.

Be extra polite with the imperative

Veuillez patienter un instant.   Please be so kind as to wait a moment.
Veuillez vous asseoir.   Please do sit down.

Vouloir bien

Statement = to be willing / happy to

Je veux bien t’accompagner.   I’m willing to go with you.
Nous voulons bien vous prêter de l’argent.   We’d be happy to lend you some money.

Request = to be so kind as to

Répondez au téléphone, si vous voulez bien.   Answer the phone, if you’d be so kind.
Si vous voulez bien me suivre.   Follow me, please.

Vouloir dire = to mean

– Que veut-dire « bon appétit » ?   – What does "bon appétit" mean?
– Ça veut dire que j’espère que ton repas te plaira.   – It means that I hope you’ll enjoy your meal.

En vouloir à quelqu’un = to hold a grudge against, be upset with

J’espère que tu ne m’en veux pas.   I hope you’re not upset with me.
Pourquoi est-ce qu’elle vous en veut ?   Why is she holding a grudge against you?

Vouloir + another verb

Semi-auxiliary verb

Vouloir plus the infinitive (no preposition in between).

Je veux partir.   I want to leave.
Nous voulons y aller.   We want to go there.

Main clause verb

Vouloir que must be followed by the subjunctive.

Je veux que tu partes.   I want you to leave.
Nous voulons qu’ils y aillent.   We want them to go there.

 Vouloir in the passé composé

In the imperfect, vouloir keeps its normal meanings of "to want" or "to hope," but it has different meanings in the passé composé.

Affirmative: to decide / try to

J’ai voulu finir le projet.   I decided to finish the project.
Avez-vous voulu partir tôt ?   Did you try to leave early?

Negative: to refuse to

Je n’ai pas voulu finir le projet.   I refused to finish the project.
Il n’a pas voulu lire.   He refused to read.

Vouloir in action

 Related lessons

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Vouloir - to want

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