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How to Say What You Want in Italian: the “Volere” Conjugation

Volere is one of those essential Italian verbs that you’ll use on an everyday basis. It means “to want” and its use is similar to the English counterpart.

The volere conjugation does not follow the regular patterns of the Italian verbs ending in -ere, and thus you need to study it separately. Learning how to properly conjugate this verb will be extremely useful in your daily conversations with native speakers.

Volere Conjugation in the Indicative Present Tense

In the indicative present tense, volere adds a “g” in the verb root for the first person (singular and plural) and for the third-person plural.

It looks like this:

Presente Present tense
io voglio I want
tu vuoi you want
lui/lei vuole he/she wants
noi vogliamo we want
voi volete you want
loro vogliono they want
  • Non voglio andare a cena in quel ristorante.
    I don’t want to have dinner in that restaurant.
  • Vuoi dell’acqua?
    Do you want some water?

Pay attention to the use of the indicative present of volere when you want to ask for something. In fact, Italian people consider it impolite to use this tense to ask for something, whether you are in a shop or you’re invited for dinner at your friend’s house.

It is best to replace it with the conditional tense instead, similarly to English. For instance:

  • Vuoi qualcosa da bere?
    Do you want something to drink?
  • Voglio dell’acqua. (Impolite)
    I want water.
  • Vorrei dell’acqua. (Polite)
    I’d like (want) some water.

Volere Conjugation in the Indicative Past Tense

The Italian indicative mood has 5 past tenses: two simple and three compounds. We will take a look the simple tenses first.

Let’s start with the imperfect tense, a mood which is used to describe recurring habits or actions in the past, or simply actions that happened not too long ago:

Imperfetto Imperfect
io volevo I wanted
tu volevi you wanted
lui/lei voleva he/she wanted
noi volevamo we wanted
voi volevate you wanted
loro volevano they wanted
  • Non volevo venire, ma lei mi ha costretto.
    I didn’t want to come, but she forced me.
  • Da piccolo, non volevo mai mangiare le verdure.
    When I was young, I never wanted to eat vegetables.

The second tense is the Italian passato remoto (Remote Past tense), which is almost never used in daily conversation. It looks like this:

Passato remote Remote Past tense
io volli I wanted
tu volesti you wanted
lui/lei volle he/she wanted
noi volemmo we wanted
voi voleste you wanted
loro vollero they wanted

This tense is used almost exclusively in literature and you’ll hardly hear it in daily life, with the exception of some regional uses. When talking about past actions in Italian, it’s more common to use passato prossimo or imperfetto.

  • I nonni non vollero mai trasferirsi in città.
    Our grandparents never wanted to move to the city.

Volere Conjugation to Talk about the Future

The indicative future simple is another irregular tense: here the root of the verb drops the “l” and takes a double “r”.

Then, you add the regular stems for the future. This is how it looks like:

Futuro Semplice Future Simple
io vorrò I will want
tu vorrai you will want
lui/lei vorrà he/she will want
noi vorremo we will want
voi vorrete you will want
loro vorranno they will want
  • Se vorrai andare, verrò con te.
    If you (will) want to go, I’ll come with you.
  • Non vorrai mica andarci sul serio?
    Don’t you really want to go there?

Compound Tenses of Volere Conjugation

So far, we’ve seen the present, past and future tenses of volere conjugation in the Indicative mood, the most common and used mood in Italian. In addition to simple tenses, the indicative mood also has compound ones.

There are four of them: passato prossimo (present perfect tense), trapassato prossimo (past perfect tense), trapassato remoto (preterite perfect tense) and futuro anteriore (guture perfect tense).

In the compound tense you must use an auxiliary verb. Unlike most Italian verbs, which take as an auxiliary either avere or essere, volere can take both. However, you can’t randomly pick one.

Volere is an Italian modal verb and can be followed directly by another verb. For instance: voglio mangiare (I want to eat), voglio dormire (I want to sleep), voglio camminare (I want to walk). Therefore, the choice of the auxiliary depends on the verb that follows volere.

If volere is followed by a verb that has essere (“to be”) as an auxiliary, volere will take essere as an auxiliary. If it’s followed by a verb that has avere (“to have”) as an auxiliary, it takes avere.

In case volere is not followed by another verb (e.g. when it precedes a direct object), the right auxiliary is avere (“to have”).

  • Ho voluto fortemente questo lavoro.
    I strongly wanted this job.
  • Non ha voluto il mio aiuto.
    She didn’t want my help.
  • Luca non è voluto andare a scuola oggi.
    Luca didn’t want to go to school today.

After conjugating the auxiliary, you need to add the past participle of volere, which is voluto.

Let’s now take a look at how to form each compound tense and when to use them.

Volere Conjugation: Present Perfect Tense

The Italian passato prossimo is one of the most used tenses to talk about the past. It is formed with the simple present of the auxiliary + the past participle voluto.

Since volere can take both auxiliary verbs, we have put both in the conjugation chart; just remember the rule we discussed before.

Passato prossimo Present Perfect tense
io ho voluto I have wanted
tu hai voluto you have wanted
lui/lei ha voluto he/she has wanted
noi abbiamo voluto we have wanted
voi avete voluto you have wanted
loro hanno voluto they have wanted
Passato prossimo Present Perfect tense
io sono voluto/a (andare) I have wanted (to go)
tu sei voluto/a (andare) you have wanted (to go)
lui/lei è voluto/a (andare) he/she has wanted (to go)
noi siamo voluti/e (andare) we have wanted (to go)
voi siete voluti/e (andare) you have wanted (to go)
loro sono voluti/e (andare) they have wanted (to go)

When volere takes essere as an auxiliary, remember to change the endings of the past participle according to the gender and number of the subject. You can replace the verb in the brackets with any other verb that has essere as an auxiliary.

  • Non è voluto venire.
    He didn’t want to come.
  • Non hanno voluto fare come gli ho suggerito.
    They didn’t want to do as I suggested.

Volere Conjugation: Past Perfect Tense

The passato prossimo and the imperfetto are the most used tenses to talk about the past. You will rarely hear other tenses such as the trapassato prossimo (pluperfect) and trapassato remoto (preterite perfect tense) whose names alone are quite intimidating. Since they’re almost never used, you can look at them quickly and even skip them, it they’re too overwhelming.

Trapassato prossimo is formed with the imperfect of the auxiliary + the past participle of volere.

Trapassato prossimo Pluperfect Trapassato prossimo (essere auxiliary) Pluperfect
io avevo voluto I had wanted io ero voluto/a (andare) I had wanted (to go)
tu avevi voluto you had wanted tu eri voluto/a (andare) you had wanted (to go)
lui/lei aveva voluto he/she had wanted lui/lei era voluto/a (andare) he/she had wanted (to go)
noi avevamo voluto we had wanted noi eravamo voluti/e (andare) we had wanted (to go)
voi avevate voluto you had wanted voi eravate voluti/e (andare) you had wanted (to go)
loro avevano voluto they had wanted loro erano voluti/e (andare) they had wanted (to go)
  • Ricordi quel ristorante in cui eravamo voluti andare l’anno scorso?
    Do you remember that restaurant where we had wanted to go last year?

The trapassato remoto is formed with the remote past tense of the auxiliary + the usual past participle of volere. It is used to express actions which happened a very long time ago (years, or decades).

Trapassato remoto Preterite Perfect tense Trapassato remote (essere auxiliary) Preterite Perfect tense
io ebbi voluto I had wanted io fui voluto/a (andare) I had wanted (to go)
tu avesti voluto you had wanted tu fosti voluto/a (andare) you had wanted (to go)
lui/lei ebbe voluto he/she had wanted lui/lei fu voluto/a (andare) he/she had wanted (to go)
noi avemmo voluto we had wanted noi fummo voluti/e (andare) we had wanted (to go)
voi aveste voluto you had wanted voi foste voluti/e (andare) you had wanted (to go)
loro ebbero voluto they had wanted loro furono voluti/e (andare) they had wanted (to go)
  • Ricordi quella festa a cui non fummo voluti andare?
    Do you remember that party where we didn’t want to go?

Volere Conjugation: Future Perfect Tense

This tense has no equivalent in English and is mostly used when talking about two future actions, where one necessarily occurs before the other (e.g. Dopo che avrai fatto i compiti, potrai giocare – after finishing your homework, you can play). The futuro anteriore is used in the subordinate clause.

It is formed with the future simple of the auxiliary verb + voluto.

Futuro anteriore Future Perfect tense
io avrò voluto I will have wanted
tu avrai voluto you will have wanted
lui/lei avrà voluto he/she will have wanted
noi avremo voluto we will have wanted
voi avrete voluto you will have wanted
loro avranno voluto they will have wanted
Futuro anteriore (essere auxiliary) Future Perfect tense
io sarò voluto/a (andare) I will have wanted (to go)
tu sarai voluto/a (andare) you will have wanted (to go)
lui/lei sarà voluto/a (andare) he/she will have wanted (to go)
noi saremo voluti/e (andare) we will have wanted (to go)
voi sarete voluti/e (andare) you will have wanted (to go)
loro saranno voluti/e (andare) they will have wanted (to go)

The Italian futuro anteriore of volere is often used for rhetorical sentences, or to express a doubt or uncertainty of the speaker.

Chi avrà voluto fargli del male?
Who would want to hurt him?

Se avrà voluto fare così, ci sarà un motivo.
If he wanted to act this way, there must be a reason.

Subjunctive Tense of Volere

The Italian subjunctive mood is composed of four tenses and it’s frequently used to connect the subordinate to the main clauses and to express a wish, an opinion, doubt or uncertainty. Let’s see each tense, one by one.

Present Subjunctive

The first three persons of the Italian congiuntivo look the same, and therefore, you may want to include the subject in your sentence to clarify who’s doing the action.

Congiuntivo presente
(che) io voglia
(che) tu voglia
(che) lui/lei voglia
(che) noi vogliamo
(che) voi vogliate
(che) loro vogliano
  • Verrai con me, che tu lo voglia o meno.
    You’ll come with me, whether you want it or not.
  • Credo che non vogliano venire.
    I think they don’t want to come.

As you can see from the examples, the subjunctive present is used to talk about indefinite situations (I don’t know if you want to come, but you’ll come anyways / I think they don’t want to come, but I’m not sure) and is often preceded by “che” (that).

Perfect Subjunctive

The Perfect Subjunctive is often used to express a situation of uncertainty that happened in the past.

Congiuntivo passato Congiuntivo passato (essere auxiliary)
(che) io abbia voluto (che) io sia voluto/a (andare)
(che) tu abbia voluto (che) tu sia voluto/a (andare)
(che) lui/lei abbia voluto (che) lui/lei sia voluto/a (andare)
(che) noi abbiamo voluto (che) noi siamo voluti/e (andare)
(che) voi abbiate voluto (che) voi siate voluti/e (andare)
(che) loro abbiano voluto (che) loro siano voluti/e (andare)
  • Non so dire perché non siano voluti venire.
    I can’t tell why they didn’t want to come.

The perfect subjunctive is also used to formulate hypothesis about a fact or a situation which is unclear to the speaker:

  • Che abbiano voluto farmi uno scherzo?
    (Is it possible) that they wanted to play a trick on me?

Subjunctive Imperfect

The subjunctive imperfect of volere is a simple tense which is used to express a hope, wish or desire. In English, the congiuntivo imperfetto is translated with the construction would + verb.

Congiuntivo imperfetto
(che) io volessi
(che) tu volessi
(che) lui/lei volesse
(che) noi volessimo
(che) voi voleste
(che) loro volessero
  • Se volessi venire con noi, ne sarei davvero felice.
    If you wanted to come (would want to come) with us, I’ll be really happy.
  • Non c’erano dubbi sul fatto che volessero partire domani.
    There were no doubts as to the fact that they would want to leave tomorrow.

To form the imperfect subjunctive of volere to express a wish (or a belief), use the indicative imperfect + che (that) + the subjunctive imperfect.

  • Speravo che volessi venire.
    I hoped that you would want to come.
  • Credevo che non voleste venire.
    I thought that you wouldn’t want to come.

Please note that this construction only works when referring to past situations, while to express a wish or belief for actions in the present, you need to use the indicative present simple + the subjunctive present.

Pluperfect Subjunctive

The pluperfect subjunctive is formed with the subjunctive imperfect + the past participle of the main verb.

Congiuntivo trapassato Pluperfect Subjunctive
(che) io avessi voluto I would have wanted
(che) tu avessi voluto you would have wanted
(che) lui/lei avesse voluto he/she would have wanted
(che) noi avessimo voluto we would have wanted
(che) voi aveste voluto you would have wanted
(che) loro avessero voluto they would have wanted
Congiuntivo trapassato Pluperfect Subjunctive (essere auxiliary)
(che) io fossi voluto/a (andare) I would have wanted (to go)
(che) tu fossi voluto/a (andare) you would have wanted (to go)
(che) lui/lei fosse voluto/a (andare) he/she would have wanted (to go)
(che) noi fossimo voluti/e (andare) we would have wanted (to go)
(che) voi foste voluti/e (andare) you would have wanted (to go)
(che) loro fossero voluti/e (andare) they would have wanted (to go)

The pluperfect subjunctive is one of the most complex verbal forms. It is used in the subordinate clause to express a past action that happened before the other past action described in the main clause.

  • Se lui fosse voluto venire con noi invece che andare solo, non si sarebbe perso.
    If he had wanted to come with us instead of going alone, he would not have been lost.

The congiuntivo trapassato is also used in a third type conditional clauses, together with the conditional tense, following this structure: main clause with pluperfect subjunctive (often introduced by “se” – if) + main clause with conditional present tense.

However, in this case the pluperfect subjunctive is not used to state than an action happened before another, but to underline that a fact or hypothesis was impossible and couldn’t happen.

  • Se avessi voluto il gelato, lo avrei comprato.
    If I wanted ice-cream, I would have bought it.
  • Se fossi voluto restare, avresti trovato un modo.
    I you wanted to stay, you would have found a way.

Conditional Tense of Volere

The conditional tense of volere is the tense used to express polite requests and corresponds to the English “would want”. When you enter a coffee shop or you want to order anything in a polite way, you can use the conditional present of volere to ask for it – unlike in English, which uses the construction would like.

Condizionale presente Conditional present
io vorrei I would want
tu vorresti you would want
lui/lei vorrebbe he/she would want
noi vorremmo we would want
voi vorreste you would want
loro vorrebbero they would want
  • Vorrei un caffè.
    I’d like a coffee.
  • Vorrei una pizza margherita e una birra.
    I’d like a margherita pizza and a beer.
  • John vorrebbe andare in vacanza in Italia.
    John would like to go on holiday in Italy.

Other situations where the conditional tense is required is to express a desire, an advice, a gentle request or uncertain information. The past conditional is used for the same purpose, of course to talk about past actions.

Condizionale passato Conditional past
io avrei voluto I would have wanted
tu avresti voluto you would have wanted
lui/lei avrebbe voluto he/she would have wanted
noi avremmo voluto we would have wanted
voi avreste voluto you would have wanted
loro avrebbero voluto they would have wanted
Condizionale passato Conditional past (essere auxiliary)
io sarei voluto/a (andare) I would have wanted (to go)
tu saresti voluto/a (andare) you would have wanted (to go)
lui/lei sarebbe voluto/a (andare) he/she would have wanted (to go)
noi saremmo voluti/e (andare) we would have wanted (to go)
voi sareste voluti/e (andare) you would have wanted (to go)
loro sarebbero voluti/e (andare) they would have wanted (to go)
  • Non credo che sarebbe voluto venire.
    I don’t think he would have wanted to come.
  • Saremmo voluti partire con voi.
    We would have wanted to leave with you.

Imperative Mood and Indefinite Moods of Volere

We’ve nearly come to the end of this long article, but before going, let’s see the imperative and indefinite moods of volere. The imperative is normally used to express an order. You may feel that it’s quite weird to order to someone to want something, and that’s why the imperative mood of volere is rarely used. However, this tense still exists, and it’s conjugated this way:

Imperative Present
tu vuoi
lui/lei voglia
noi vogliamo
voi volete
loro vogliano

Lastly, the indefinite moods of volere:

Infinito – Infinitive
Present tense Past tense
Volere (to want) Aver voluto (to have wanted)
Participio – Participle
Present tense Past tense
volente voluto (wanted)
Gerundio – Gerundive
Present tense Past tense
Volendo (wanting) Avendo voluto (having wanted)

Conclusions

Now that you know the volere conjugation, you have everything you need to say what you want in Italian. Before going, remember to practice with our little test!

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