"They would like to have an elephant."
Translation:Zij willen graag een olifant.
Why was the conditional introduced in this sentence with no prior warning?
In Dutch it's not a conditional. In Dutch it's the word graag, which was introduced before.
In English you use the conditional to tone down a wish. In Dutch you get the same effect by adding graag, i.e. by saying that you want it 'gladly'.
And now I can answer this for you that I've studied Dutch for a while :D First off, basically the english translation here isn't perfect.
If we did a literal translation it would be something like,
"They want (with pleasure = graag) an elephant"
The verb 'to have/hebben' is not used.
Basically, when politely stating you want something in Dutch you use 'willen + graag + object'
Ik wil graag een biertje (alstublieft - could be added but that's like supersuper formal/respectful)
Wat wil je? Een biertje, graag!
Wat willen zij? Zij willen graag een olifant.
One comment above you.
(Btw, I personally think using "would" is a very confusing translation for Engish speakers if one considers the Dutch "zou")
Sorry, I missed that it was you again.
(Confusing or not, when Dutch speakers say "Ik wil graag", English speakers say "I would like", and vice versa. So this translation needs to be taught.)