When learning a language, it is a common tactic to learn the most used words. Vouloir is one of the most commonly used verbs in the French language. While it generally translates as "to want in French", it can also have different meanings, depending on the tense used or the context.
In this post, I will share with you the different meanings of the verb vouloir and how to conjugate this useful French verb.
1. What is the meaning of vouloir?
Vouloir basically means to want, to desire, or to wish. However, it can be translated in other ways, depending on the context of use. Below are a few meanings of the French verb vouloir.
*Vouloir - as " would like"
The verb vouloir is often used to be subtle or polite. For instance when instead of saying je veux (I want), courteous people would rather say Je voudrais (I would like). This is a common phrase that you can use in many contexts: while shopping, going to the doctor, at the airport, or in any situation of your life where you want to say politely I would like.
*Vouloir - as "Please" or "Could"
Vouloir is also used to ask nicely someone to do something. We are still in politeness. In that case, the imperative form is used. It could be translated as Please, could or be kind to.
Example: Veuillez refermer la porte après vous (Please, close the door after you/be kind to close the door after you or simply "could you close the door after you?").
Another way, is to use the infinitive form of vouloir, with the adverb bien. Example: Bien vouloir refermer la porte après vous.
*Vouloir used as "a wish" or to express a strong command
Vouloir can also be used as a wish, or to demand something. In that case, the verb vouloir is followed by subjunctive tense.
Je voudrais que mes enfants viennent me voir à Noël. =>I would like my children to come to see me at Christmas/I wish my children will visit me at Christmas.
Je veux que tu fasses tes devoirs. =>I want you to do your homework / I demand that you do your homework.
*Vouloir used as "to agree"
When used with bien in the present tense, like in the following example, Vouloir is a mark of acceptance, of agreement.
Je veux bien t'aider. => I am ok to help you.
*Vouloir used as a noun: a will/willingness
Vouloir is a masculine word that can be translated as a will in French. Example: Je lui ai demandé de l'aide mais tout dépendra de son bon vouloir. => I asked him for help but everything will depend on his goodwill /willingness.
2. How to conjugate the verb vouloir?
You will find below, the conjugation tables of the main tenses any beginner and intermediate French learner should know.
*Conjugation of Vouloir in the Present tense
Even if vouloir ends with "IR", it is not a regular verb. It is an irregular verb with a stem change. In fact, you have 3 stems for the present tense. Veu - Voul -Veul
Once you know these beginnings, you just need to add the following endings to them, depending on the subject: x - x - t - ons -ez -ent
If it is easier for you to learn with songs, you should check out this Youtube Channel proposing the conjugation of Vouloir in the Present tense.
*Conjugation of Vouloir in the simple future tense
Conjugating in the future tense is quite easy for regular verbs. But for an irregular verb like vouloir,, you need to know the stem which is VOUDR, and then you apply the regular endings of the future tense: ai -as - a- ons - ez- ont.
I will want
You will want
He/she will want
We will want
You will want
They will want
*Conjugating Vouloir in the Imperfect tense
The conjugation base for l'imparfait is Voul. The endings are ais- ais - ait - ions - iez - aient.
*Conjugation of Vouloir in Passé composé
Tu as voulu
Il/elle a voulu
Nous avons voulu
Vous avez voulu
Ils/elles ont voulu
*Conjugating Vouloir in the subjunctive tense
Que je veuille
That I want
Que tu veuilles
That you want
That he/she wants
Que nous voulions
That we want
Que vous vouliez
That you want
That they want
*Vouloir in the present conditional tense: conjugation table
As you can see, in the present conditional, vouloir is translated as "would like".
I would like
You would like
He/she would like
We would like
We would like
They would like
*Vouloir in the plus-que-parfait
I had wanted
Tu avais voulu
You had wanted
Il/elle avait voulu
He/she had wanted
Nous avions voulu
We had wanted
Vous aviez voulu
You had wanted
Ils/elles avaient voulu
They had wanted
*Vouloir in the imperative mood
There are only 3 conjugated forms in the imperative:
3. Expressions with the verb vouloir in French
Here are some useful sentences and expressions containing the verb Vouloir.
*Vouloir c'est pouvoir => When there is a will, there is a way
*En vouloir à quelqu'un => To hold a grudge against someone
Je lui en veux car c'est lui la source de mes problèmes. I hold a grudge against him because he is the origin of my problems.
*En vouloir à la vie de quelqu'un => to have the intention of killing someone
Mon client en veut à ma vie car je lui ai donné un conseil qui lui a fait perdre des centaines de millions. => My customer wants to kill me because I gave him an advice that made him loose hundreds of millions.
*S'en vouloir => to blame oneself
Je m'en veux de ne lui avoir pas prêté de l'argent. => I blame myself for not lending him money.
*Qu'on le veuille ou non => Whether we Like it or not
Qu'il le veuille ou non, il devra participer à cette conférence. Whether he likes it or not, he will have to participate to this congress.
*Vouloir dire => to mean
Que veut dire cette expression => What does this expression mean
*C'est toi qui l'as voulu => It's your fault
We have gone through the essential things you need to know about the French verb vouloir. You should then be able to understand its meaning depending on the context, and able to conjugate it properly.