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A Guide to the French Verb Vouloir: Conjugation and Usage

C:\Users\Èva DoVé\Downloads\stefan-barkman-543458-unsplash.jpgIf you want to express your intentions in French and convey polite requests or issue strong commands, you’ve come to the right place! Welcome to the most useful guide to the French vouloir which will teach you everything you need to know about this verb—from conjugation to native-like usage.

The usual meaning of vouloir is “to want” or “to wish”. It is an irregular verb, which means its conjugation doesn’t necessarily follow regular patterns. Memorizing its conjugation in most of the French tenses and moods is essential if you want to speak the language well.

And you know what?

It is not as complicated as it seems! After all, vouloir, c’est pouvoir! (“If there is a will, there is a way”) Not to mention that we will tell you everything you need to know about the French conjugation of vouloir.

First, we will take a look at the 8 most common meanings of vouloir. Then, we will learn the 9 key conjugations of vouloir. Unless you aim to speak at a Shakespearean level, you won’t really need the tenses and moods that are not on the list. Let’s focus on what is going to be useful for a modern learner of French.

Here is our roadmap:

BEGINNER

  • Je veux (I want)
  • J’ai voulu (I wanted)
  • Je voulais (I wanted)
  • J’avais voulu (I had wanted)
  • Je voudrai (I will want)

INTERMEDIATE

  • Je voudrais (I would like)
  • J’aurais voulu (I would have…)

ADVANCED

  • Veuillez patienter (Please wait)
  • Que je le veuille ou non (Like it or not)

Let’s get started!

8 Uses of Vouloir

1. Expressing intentions and desires

Je veux devenir un célèbre photographe.
I want to become a famous photographer.

Je veux du gâteau au chocolat.
I want some chocolate cake.

Je veux apprendre le français.
I want to learn French.

2. Conveying polite requests

Je voudrais une bouteille d’eau, s’il vous plaît.
I would like a bottle of water, please.

Voulez-vous patienter un instant?
Will you wait a moment, please?

3. Giving strong commands

Je veux qu’il finisse le projet.
I want him to finish the project.

Nous voulons que vous étudiez plus.
We want you to study more.

Je veux qu’il sache que c’est moi qui décide!
I want him to know that I am the one who decides!

4. Agreeing (to be willing to)

Je veux bien répondre au téléphone.
I am willing to answer the phone.

Marc veut bien aider Julie.
Marc is willing to help Julie.

Si ma voiture veut bien démarrer, on ira à Nice.
If my car starts, we will go to Nice.

5. En vouloir à quelqu’un = to hold a grudge against someone

J’en veux à Marie parce qu’elle m’a menti.
I hold a grudge against Marie because she lied to me.

6. S’en vouloir = to blame oneself, to feel terrible about something

Mélissa s’en veut d’avoir été sarcastique avec lui.
Melissa feels terrible about being sarcastic with him.

Luc s’en veut pour l’accident.
Luc blames himself for the accident.

Here is the perfect song that involves meanings no. 5 and 6:

7. Vouloir dire = to mean something

Qu’est-ce que ce panneau veut dire?
What does this sign mean?

Qu’est-ce que ‘computer’ veut dire?
What does “computer” mean?

Qu’est-ce que tu veux dire?
What do you mean?

Ce n’est pas ce que je voulais dire.
That is not what I meant.

8. Sans le vouloir = accidentally, unintentionally

J’ai échappé le verre sans le vouloir.
I dropped the glass accidentally.

J’ai blessé ma soeur sans le vouloir.
I hurt my sister without meaning to.

Conjugation of the French Verb Vouloir: Beginners Level

Conjugating Vouloir in the Present Tense 

Je veux
Tu veux
Il/Elle veut
Nous voulons
Vous voulez
Ils/Elles veulent

A common way to use vouloir is simply to follow it with a verb in the infinitive.

Let’s take a look at a few examples in the present tense, the simplest of all French tenses:

Elles veulent partir.
They want to leave.

Nous voulons manger.
We want to eat.

Tu veux danser.
You want to dance.

Je veux écouter de la musique française.
I want to listen to French music.

Oh, you want to listen to French music?

Well, here is a popular French song by Zaz titled “Je veux” (it’s going to help you memorize how to use vouloir in the present tense):

Conjugating Vouloir in the Imperfect Tense

Je voulais
Tu voulais
Il/Elle voulait
Nous voulions
Vous vouliez
Ils/Elles voulaient

The conjugation of vouloir in the Imperfect Tense is relatively regular. All the forms share the common root voulall you have to do is to attach the right ending (in blue in the table).

Je voulais dire non.
I wanted to say no.

Elle voulait des preuves.
She wanted proof.

Nous ne voulions pas être dans vos pattes.
We didn’t want to get in your way.

Elles voulaient savoir ce qui était arrivé.
They wanted to know what happened.

Conjugating Vouloir in the Present Perfect Tense

Je ai voulu
Tu as voulu
Il/Elle a voulu
Nous avons voulu
Vous avez voulu
Ils/Elles ont voulu

In the passé composé, vouloir has a quite different meaning. If the sentence is affirmative, the verb means “to decide” or “to try”.

J’ai voulu participer au projet.
I tried to participate in the project.

Jérôme a voulu parler à Rachel.
Jérôme tried to talk to Rachel.

Nous avons voulu bâtir une maison.
We decided to build a house.

On the other hand, vouloir will meanto refuse” in negative sentences:

Elle n’a pas voulu prendre son médicament.
She refused to take her medicine.

Lucie n’a pas voulu parler à Charles.
Lucie refused to talk to Charles.

Conjugating Vouloir in the Pluperfect Tense

J’ avais voulu
Tu avais voulu
Il/Elle avait voulu
Nous avions voulu
Vous aviez voulu
Ils/Elles avaient voulu

Just like the past perfect tense in English, the plus-que-parfait expresses actions that happened before a certain point in the past.

Ils avaient voulu nous aider.
They had wanted to help us.

Tu avais voulu lui dire la vérité.
You had wanted to tell him the truth.

Conjugating Vouloir in the Future Tense

Je voudrai
Tu voudras
Il/Elle voudra
Nous voudrons
Vous voudrez
Ils/Elles voudront

The futur simple in French corresponds to ‘will + verb’ in English.

Après cette journée, tu voudras probablement te reposer.
After this day, you will probably want to rest.

Je suis sûr qu’elle voudra manger de la pizza.
I am sure she will want to eat pizza.

Ils voudront gagner le trophée.
They will want to win the trophy.

Conjugation of the French Verb Vouloir: Intermediate Level

Conjugating Vouloir in the Conditional Present Tense

Je voudrais
Tu voudrais
Il/Elle voudrait
Nous voudrions
Vous voudriez
Ils/Elles voudraient

The English would/could/should translates into the conditional in French. The conditional mood is also used to formulate polite requests.

Nous voudrions marcher dans la forêt.
We would like to walk in the forest.

Je voudrais visiter Paris.
I would like to visit Paris.

Here is a song called “Parler à mon père” from the one and only Celine Dion. In the song, she explains that among all the things she would like to do, most of all, she would like to talk to her dad.

Listen up!

To be polite in French when ordering something, it is much better to use the conditional present.

If you use the present tense, you might come off as rude.

Je voudrais un thé et un croissant.
I would like a tea and a croissant.

Nous voudrions une table pour trois.
We would like a table for three.

Conjugating Vouloir in the Conditional Past Tense

Je aurais voulu
Tu aurais voulu
Il/Elle aurait voulu
Nous aurions voulu
Vous auriez voulu
Ils/Elles auraient voulu

We use the past conditional to express what would have happened if the conditions in the past had been different.

J’aurais voulu te le dire.
I would have wanted to tell you.

J’aurais voulu être un artiste.
I would have liked to be an artist.

Conjugation of the French Verb Vouloir: Advanced Level

If you’re a beginner, please do not stress about the following part! These are the most advanced structures that are only used in specific contexts.

Conjugating Vouloir in the Present Subjunctive Tense

(Que) je veuille
(Que) tu veuilles
(Qu’)il/elle veuille
(Que) nous voulions
(Que) vous vouliez
(Qu’)ils/elles veuillent

The subjunctive is a mood that describes the subject’s attitude, and can express anything from hopes to fears.

Que tu le veuilles ou non, il faudra que tu travailles avec eux.
Like it or not, you will have to work with them.

Il faudra que vous terminiez d’écrire ce rapport, que vous le vouliez ou non.
You will have to finish writing that report, whether you like it or not.

Conjugating Vouloir in the Imperative Mood

Tu veuille
Nous voulons
Vous veuillez

The imperative mood is used to make requests and issue orders.

Here’s a catch: even though it is grammatically correct to use all three forms, we only really use veuillez.

Veuillez remplir ce formulaire.
Please fill out this form.

Veuillez patienter s’il vous plaît.
Please wait.

Veuillez garder le silence dans la bibliothèque.
Please be quiet in the library.

Congratulations! You made it to the end!

Do not forget that practice makes perfect! This is especially true of the entire vouloir conjugation.

Au revoir et à bientôt!

Challenge yourself with Clozemaster

Test your skills and see what you’ve learned from this article by playing a selection of sentences with the French verb vouloir in various forms and contexts:

Sign up here to save your progress and start getting fluent with thousands of French sentences at Clozemaster.

Clozemaster has been designed to help you learn the language in context by filling in the gaps in authentic sentences. With features such as Grammar Challenges, Cloze-Listening, and Cloze-Reading, the app will let you emphasize all the competencies necessary to become fluent in French.

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