1. Forum
  2. >
  3. Topic: Dutch
  4. >
  5. "They would like to have an e…

"They would like to have an elephant."

Translation:Zij willen graag een olifant.

July 23, 2014



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'.


Zij willen graag een olifant. They want to like an elephant?


that's what i was wondering - '..graag hebben een...' was rejected


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.


No, they 'gladly' like an elephant, i.e. they would like one.


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.)


Why that's not "zij willen graag hebben een olifant"? That's really confusing.


Dutch has V2 word order in ordinary main clauses. It looks like SVO (as in English or French) in most sentences where the predicate (verb and things directly depending on it) consists of just a single word. But when the predicate consists of more than one word (e.g. "graag hebben willen" - this is how you write this particular predicate as an infinitive), only a single word (the conjugated word - in this case, it's "willen", which happens to look like the infinitive) follows the subject directly. Everything else follows at the end of the sentence.

Yes, it's weird and confusing. But it's a common feature of almost all modern Germanic languages other than English. It's an intermediate stage on the path from the original Indo-European, Proto-Germanic and Latin SOV word order to the modern European SVO word order. Mark Twain in "The Awful German Language" famously commented on the frustration of having to wait for the relevant verb (in this case: "hebben") in long German sentences that are formed with an auxiliary (in this case: "willen"). As you can see. this is applicable to Dutch as well, though in Dutch it's even more often acceptable than in German to use SVO word order instead.


Zij willen een olifant graag is not acceptsble word order?

Learn Dutch in just 5 minutes a day. For free.