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  5. "aime" + "ai" =??????


"aime" + "ai" =??????

I have a serious question, how do verbs like "aimerais" and "voudrais" have to have the ending "-ai"? What does that mean? Also, when would you use "aimerais" and "voudrais"-(would like to)?

April 16, 2018



They are both often translated as : "I would like to" or "I would like"

However they are used in slightly different shades of meaning.

"aimerais comes from the verb aimer : to love ( see Audio French: aimer )

"voudrais" comes from the verb vouloir : to want / to wish ( see Audio French: vouloir )

aimer and vouloir are referred to as the infinitive/source/root of the verb.

The ~ais in these two examples : indicates it is a Conditionnel (conditional) verb mood (tense).
Conditional verbs are similar ( but not identical ) to English conditional mood (tense).
It describes events that are not guaranteed to occur, and that are often dependent on certain conditions.

The conitionnel endings:

subject pronoun .. ending
je ~ais
tu ~ais
il/elle ~ait
nous ~ions
vous ~iez
ils/elles ~aient

However aimer and vouloir are a special case.
vouloir is a polite request. More similar to could I / may I in English.
aimer in the conditional mood is used to express a polite desire, yet also implies it is sometimes one that cannot be fulfilled.

Though in common usage, they may at times be used interchangeably, there is a very important difference in nuance.

So, probably as a general rule, if you are expressing something that you are not on totoyer terms, then it is more polite to differ to use the verb conjugation for vouloir

So this is a partial answer to your question.

Also note, because in French you never use a conditional verb after si : if
You would never say : si vous voudriez.
Instead you would say something possibly like Si vous souhaitez

souhaiter : desire

Also check out aimer : to love or to like - that is the question

nb. Please note : I am NOT a native French person, and so please feel free to shine more light on this issue, if you have further information.


If you want to order something, you can say:

Bonjour. Je voudrais un café, s'il vous plaît. : It is in this context a polite way to say 'I want'.

While to express a dream, you would say :
J'aimerais aller à Paris . : I would like to go to Paris.

While if ordering a ticket for Paris : Je voudrais un billet pour Paris.

My first French teacher would say that the French are very particular. And to speak French, you need to pay attention to these particulars.

Or perhaps to your Mum, you may say J'aimerais un jus, s'il tu plaît : I would like a juice, please.

Though in some families, though it is getting far less common now, (so I am told by my French teacher) you may also hear people being formal in their interactions with older family members, and use the word vous. It is all a matter of appropriate etiquette.


Interesting! Thank you for this wonderful display of information and also thank you for helping a fellow student. I am still in French 1B, I can't wait for French 2A/B. It always helps to be a little step ahead! Thank you again!

  • 1182

It's a good answer, I'd had that literally "je voudrais" would be translated as "I would want" but I don't think anybody would say that in English. The use of the conditional softens the sentence and is very common in french.

Contrast: "Je veux un café" (I want a coffee) with "je voudrais un café" (I would like a coffee). Both express pretty much the same thing but the latter is a bit more oblique and polite.

You can basically use the same construct with almost any action to turn it into a desire, although in general with other verbs you'll have to add add "bien" after it:

"Je bois de l'eau" -> "je boirais bien de l'eau" (I'd like to drink water, literally "I would well drink some water" or something like that).

"Je vais en Amérique" -> "J'irais bien en Amérique." (I'd like to go to america).

"On a pris un taxi" -> "On aurait bien pris un taxi" (We'd have liked to take a cab).

I hope this is not too confusing but since it's a very common construct I think it's worth point out.

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