How to say want in Italian: volere

The English verb “want” is often translated in Italian with volere. As other frequently used verbs, volere is an irregular verb, meaning that it does not follow the same pattern as other second conjugation verbs and presents many different forms for each tense.

Volere is also a modal verb (or so-called helper verb) and is followed by a verb in the  infinitive tense. Modal verbs are also called helper verbs because their function is to “help” another verb, by communicating intention, possibility, need, or ability.

Volere has three main meanings (which are all compatible with the use of the verb “to want” in English):

  • It expresses the desire to achieve something
  • It expresses a strong will
  • It expresses the claim of acting on someone else’s will (and it is used for demands)

Volere: Examples

Let’s look at some sentences to see when it’s suitable to use the verb volere.

  • To express a desire to achieve something:

Da grande voglio fare l’insegnante.

When I grow up I want to be a teacher.

Marta vuole vincere la gara.

Marta wants to win the race.

  • To express a strong will

Angelo vuole smettere di fumare.

Angelo wants to quit smoking.

Non posso andare alla festa perché i miei genitori non vogliono.

I can’t go to the party because my parents don’t want me to go.

  • To express demands concerning others

Giorgio vuole i soldi che gli devi.

Giorgio wants the money you owe him.

Gli insegnanti vogliono che gli studenti si impegnino di più.

The teachers want the students to work harder.

Other uses of volere: the conditional tense

The conditional conjugation of volere has a particular meaning which is comparable to the use of “would like” and “wish” in English. The conjugation of volere in the conditional mood (present tense) is:

Io vorrei
Tu vorresti
Lui vorrebbe
Noi vorremmo
Voi vorreste
Loro vorrebbero

 

Let’s look at some sentences to see when it’s suitable to use the conditional conjugation of the verb volere:

  • To express wishes and desires (especially if difficult or impossible to accomplish):

Vorrei dormire tutto il giorno!

I wish I could sleep all day.

Vorrei imparare a suonare il pianoforte, ma non ho tempo.

I would like to learn to play the piano, but I don’t have time.

  • To make polite requests.

Vorrei un caffè, per favore.

I would like a coffee, please.

  • To make polite offers and proposals – but in this case the indicative mood is also acceptable:

Vorresti qualcosa da bere? (conditional mood) / Vuoi qualcosa da bere? (indicative mood)

Would you like something to drink?

Audio lessons to practice volere (want)

To practice volere (want), take Lesson 22 of the Italian audio course “Ripeti con me!“.

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