"We want to see the potato!"
Translation:Wir möchten die Kartoffel sehen!
When does "moechten" take the meaning of "wollen" exactly?
This sentence reads like it should take "wollen" rather than "moechten"
Wollen is also accepted here. It just sounds less polite.
I think the reason that "want" sometimes still translates naturally to möchten rather than wollen is that the politeness threshold is different for each.
Normally I would translate 'möchten' with 'would like', and 'wollen' with 'want'. (I'm not a native speaker but I lived in Germany for 25 years.)
This is just a bad translation in my opinion. There's a difference between 'want' and 'would like' just like there's a difference between 'moechten' and 'wollen'.
Möchten is a verb from derived from the modal verb mögen, namely the Konjunktiv II, but used with present meaning.
The modal verb in its infinitive form mögen generally means “to like” and this is the meaning you express if you conjugate it with a -g- in its root (mag). However, the conjugation with -chte (möchte) means “to want/would like”.
The explanation is similar in English: “liking something” doesn’t mean you “want” it. But used with the modal verb “would” (corresponding to Konjunktiv II in German), i.e. saying “you would like something”, this is a polite way to express that you want something.
The last important thing you must know is that the conjugation with -g- (mag/mög-) normally is combined with a noun while the conjugation with -cht- (möchte) can be combined both with a noun and a verb.
If you wonder how we express in German that you “like doing something”, we use the adverb gern(e) after the conjugated verb.
Isn't "möchten" .. "would like to", and "wollen,"" want"? It's one of Duo's infamous weird sentences again! I don't think I'll ever need to say that!