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  5. "Je veux qu'elles soient mes …

"Je veux qu'elles soient mes amies."

Translation:I want them to be my friends.

April 17, 2015



I don't think "i wish they are my friends" is a correct, even though subjunctive would transliterate into present in English. The correct form would be "I wish they were my friends". Cf. "Je veux que tu sois ici" is "I wish you were here" not "I wish you are here". Please correct me if I'm wrong, I don't want to report it otherwise :)


You are absolutely correct. 'Were' is the actually the present subjunctive form (as well as the past) of the verb to be in English. Strictly speaking, using the infinitive here is incorrect, although most English speakers would have no problem with it.


I know it's a fact that the subjunctive mood is gradually losing its place in English - but, allow me - as a non-native English speaker to venture a word of correction: the past subjunctive of "I wish he were here" is in fact "I wished he had been there" - if I'm wrong I've unlearned something I believed all my life - mais qui est vie !


Both of you are almost right. ;-)

The present subjunctive is "be" (it is necessary that he be here). It's called present but need not refer to the present time.

And then there's the past subjunctive, used in expressing

  • (1) a present wish about the present (I wish he were here now)

and I think also

  • (2) a past wish about the notional present in the past (I wished he were there at that moment),

versus the pluperfect subjunctive, used in expressing

  • (3) a present wish about the past (it is now afternoon, and I wish he had been here this morning)


  • (4) a past wish about the notional past in the past (in the afternoon I wished he had been there in the morning),

and also perhaps more commonly used in expressing sense 2 above (I wished he had been there at that very moment of my wishing it).

Though it is indeed arguable that 4 can be used for 2, and the use is even very likely more common, I myself question it, because of the lack of distinction, then, between 2 and 4.

In any event, this post is by no means an exhaustive catalogue of the possible uses and constructions of the English subjunctive, but just a note on the examples and the names of the constructions discussed by the two commentators I'm responding to.

Note that the pluperfect subjunctive does not always differ in form from the corresponding indicative, and some might not even call it subjunctive (but I don't see why not).

Also, the names of the constructions are less important than their uses, which you both seem to understand clearly enough anyway.

Of course I myself now stand to be corrected on something in my post. :-)

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Please see my reply to Pieter422913 just below here. [Ref: the exercise is in present subjunctive, not past subjunctive. The whole issue with "wished" is not relevant to this sentence.]


Noted, but my comment was a specific response regarding the identification of subjunctive verb tenses. (Sometimes the discussion goes beyond the immediate Duo sentence at hand.) Let me know if you think I'm wrong about anything I wrote. ;-)


By the way, translating "vouloir" to "to wish" is not the best here, for the meaning is different.

"je veux qu'elles soient mes amies" is much closer to "I would like them to be my friends" than any translation with "wish", but still "would like" is still a milder version of "I want".


Good point. Is the French here a little stronger than "I would like", given that it's not in the conditional?

The distinction is not always all that significant in English, I suppose, depending on the context. I'm just curious as to your sense of the French.


Yes, "je voudrais" is softer than "je veux" (let's say: more polite).

And "je veux" is much stronger than "je souhaite".


but then with "I want", is it subjunctive because a person (elles) follows it?

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It's not the "je veux" that is subjunctive, but the "...qu'elles soient..."


that triggers it.

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The initial phrase is in present tense, so no "I wished...." The dependent clause is in present subjunctive, which must be used in French to convey a degree of uncertainty (about the friendship). The most natural expression would be something like "I want them to be my friends" which may not catch all of the uncertain quality inherent in the French. This may account for why English speakers want to put "wish" there (instead of want) in that it helps convey the uncertainty of the proposition. In English, you could say "I want them to be my friends", but more likely "I wish they were my friends". Trying to cut and paste "I want" with a subjunctive "that they were my friends" sounds awkward in English.


English is my first language and that seems to be the correct past subjunctive form.

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The initial phrase (je veux) is in present tense while the phrase (qu'elles soient mes amies) is in present subjunctive. So there is no "I wished...." or "I wanted" in this sentence. I think we're trying too hard to make the dependent clause sound like subjunctive. It is more like "I want them to be my friends" which may not catch all of the uncertain quality inherent in the French. The reason English speakers want to put "wish" there (instead of want) is that it helps convey the uncertainty of the proposition. In English, you could say "I want them to be my friends", but more likely "I wish they were my friends". Trying to cut and paste "I want" with a subjunctive "that they were my friends" sounds awkward in English.


You're right. I wish you were here, I wish I were taller...


I wish that they were my friends -- fails but is the way we do it in English.

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It is accepted.


Has this been removed from the list?

It is not accepting it for me right now, and I have tried it three times to make sure I didn't have any other mistake, February 2017


There is a clear enough difference in meaning between "I want them to be my friends" and "I wish they were my friends". The mental attitude is different.

With "I want them to be", you show some determination to make something happen.

With "I wish they were", you express some regret about something that has not happened and no intention to make this change.

If you back translate "I wish they were my friends", you get significantly different translations:

  • "j'aurais aimé qu'ils/elles soient mes amis/amies"
  • "je souhaiterais qu'ils/elles soient mes amis./amies"

You will notice that in both translations, a conditional mood is used in the main clause to express the attitude I described.


By changing a few words gives one to a pessimistic mindset.

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Yes, it was removed. The notion of "vouloir" is not broad enough to include "wish" here.


I want for them to be my friends is no good?


Try reporting it. (Duo might not like it, but it's English.)


You raise an interesting point. It's certainly a construction I have heard, and used, but when I try to think about it from a grammatical standpoint, I can't quite figure out what the "for" is doing there. Perhaps someone else here can enlighten us.


Granted, it seems superfluous but I'm not sure it's bad English. :) I think they accept this now.


According to this discussion (which quotes Swan's Practical English Usage), the construction is "informal" in American English and "not usually possible" in British English.

I agree that the "for" seems superfluous, and I'd say the "for" construction is much less common than the "for-less" construction, but apparently it's recognized by at least one English grammar authority, not to mention that it's easy to find examples.


Enlightened already! Thanks for that, PeaceJoyPancakes. And the book referenced is available in .pdf format for free download, lovely.


Indeed, thanks for noting the availability of the download. Interestingly the 2nd edition of this apparently British text doesn't make the same concession to "informal American English" that the 3rd does.


I put "I want THAT they be my friends," and was surprised to be gonged wrong. So.... Help me if you can, I'm feeling down, And I do appreciate your being 'round. ;-)


Want that is bad english


Not bad English .. just a bit old fashioned. And it fitted well with the particular part of speech being taught in French That's why I thought I'd risk it.


It's correct to my ear and I support it, though it would be unusual to hear it uttered these days.



I thought it is bad english because I read it: from Michael Swan, Practical English Usage:
1. That-clauses are not normally used after want. Do you want me to make you some coffee? ( not: do you want that I make you some coffee?

  1. Many verbs are followed by object + infinitive. I want you to listen. With some verbs (e.g. want, allow), a that-clause is impossible. She didn't want me to go. (NOT She didnt't want that I go.)

and from English Grammar in Use, Raymond Murphy: 1. “Be especially careful with want. Do not say “want that…” - Everyone wanted him to win the race. ( not …wanted that he won) - Do you want me to come early? ( not ‘want that I come’)

and from http://www.ldoceonline.com/dictionary/want Want is not usually followed by a ‘that’ clause. ✗Don’t say: They want that their son goes to a good university. • You say I don’t want someone doing something, when this is annoying or causes problems: I don’t want other people telling me how to spend my money. You can also say: I don’t want other people to tell me how to spend my money.


You are right. "Want that" is not usually used, these days. It is old-fashioned verging on archaic. However, it is a rather good example of the precise point that was being taught to me in the French exercise I was doing at the time. Unfortunately, it seems I "out-sophisticated" Duolingo in this case, and not for the first time. However, your point has been made very thoroughly, so you have a good day, now.


Learners should certainly follow the advice in those references, particularly because they're not as able to judge by ear what's idiomatic, what's archaic, what's regional, and so on.

You'll find "want that [s] + [v]" in various corpora, most often in the construction "want that [I/we/you/he/she/they] should + [v]", which is rather British-sounding. British English often uses "should" where N. Am. English uses the subjunctive, but there is a colloquial Americanism that uses "should" while dropping the "that": "you want I should [v]?" You can hear it, for example, in movies of a certain age.

I suspect you'd also find "want that" in more comprehensive grammars, even if they might point out that it's archaic or unusual in current English. (In The Science of Language, a linguistics text, John P. Hughes notes that "'I want him to go' [...] is equivalent to 'I want that he should go'".)


Thank you, very much!


"i want that they are my friends"? what do i exactly want in this situation?


want + that isn't good english


What about "I want them as my friends"?


So is this how you always structure this kind of sentence? For example, would "Je veux qu'ils soient mes chiens" translate to "I want them to be my dogs" (as in, I want to have them as my dogs)?


How about I wish they were my friends. I know that "them to be" is more in direct translation, but I think this sounds more natural.

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Considering the uncertainty of the original text, it is reasonable to move to a softer verb, IMO. It is accepted.


"I wish they were my friends" was not accepted, and, I think should have been.....


Even though wishing is technically what's being done here, "wish" is a different verb. The verb used here is "vouloir" which is "to want." The verb "souhaiter" means "to wish." "I want them to be my friends" I think is the closest, best-sounding translation.

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IMO, even though "vouloir" is certainly not "wish", the interpretation of the uncertainty of the French dependent clause (they are not my friends now but I want them to be, I would like them to be, I wish they were) causes the English to be a little flexible in putting "vouloir" into a natural English expression using the subjunctive.


Very interesting discussion.

Perhaps vouloir here can be a bit flexible (meaning to wish, given the uncertainty) as it is flexible in the conditional to mean "would like".

On the other hand, as Sitesurf has said on a few occasions, we need to adhere to proper written French and English and "to want" is certainly correct (no pun intended about the uncertainty).


Puis-je écrire "Je veux leur être mes amies"?


No you can't.

There are two possibilities :

  • je veux être leur ami(e) = I want to be their friend: this is when the second verb has the same subject as "vouloir"
  • je veux qu'elles soient mes amies = I want them to be my friends: the subjunctive is mandatory when the second verb's subject is different from that of "vouloir".

The same rule applies to a number of verbs like "souhaiter, désirer, demander, exiger"


use of "were" my friends is correct also, yes?


I can't think of a way to make a sentence with "were" whose meaning would be equivalent to the French, but I may not fully understand the French.

"I want them to be my friends" suggests a real possibility that I can work towards.

"I wish they were my friends" suggests a desire not necessarily to be acted upon, or a condition not necessarily possible.

What I'd like to know is whether the French means the first or second of these, or if it could mean either one. (I've been taking it to mean the first, because that's the English translation provided by Duo.)

What sentence do you have in mind?


To translate the French sentence "Je veux qu'elles soient mes amies" into English, one might naturally say "I wish they were my friends." While that translation may be less than literal, it would sound perfectly normal to native English speakers and would convey the meaning accurately. Many sentences translated in the exercises are similarly translated into natural, if not literal, English.


I agree with your premise that the apparently most direct translation is not always the best or most natural.

But perhaps a native speaker of French or someone who's bilingual can help us out.

Is there a nuance that requires "je veux qu'elles soient mes amies" to be translated as "I want them to be my friends" (possibility to work towards), or is "I wish they were my friends" (unrequited desire) a close enough translation?

"I wish" is usually "je souhaite", so my initial impulse would be to think that "I wish they were my friends" would be closer to "je souhaite qu'elles soient mes amies".

However, if the verb were "souhaiter", then "I wish them to be my friends" would be the English that would fit the pattern given in the example, which is a little different from "I wish they were my friends", and closer in its sense to "I want them to be my friends".

In fact my research so far shows that "I wish he were..." is often rendered by some conditional form of verb, e.g. "je souhaiterais qu'il soit...", so it's possible that "je souhaite qu'elles soient mes amies" is indeed better translated as "I wish them to be my friends", and "I wish they were my friends" would actually be something like "je souhaiterais qu'elles soient mes amies" or "j'aimerais bien qu'elles soient mes amies".

French native speakers?


"I wish they were my friends" directly and accurately translates to "j'aimerais/je voudrais (bien) qu'elles soient mes amies".

The trouble here is purely mechanical: the conditional mood has not been taught yet; hence the overuse of "je veux" in the lessons prior to the Conditional Skill.

"Je souhaite qu'elles soient mes amies" is less 'brutal' than "je veux", but this still does not convey the "I wish they were" uncertainty. I would suggest: "I wish them to be my friends" - as the meaning (not necessarily your usual way of saying it).


Thanks for taking the time to provide a helpful reply.

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And that makes sense. The more natural way of saying it would be "I wish (that) they were my friends" although "I wish them to be my friends" carries the same sense without invoking the English subjunctive.


I think Duolingo is doing it on purpose. This is the only sentence I keep getting wrong. No matter which word I use for the subjunctive(be/were, both suggested) it tells me I used the wrong word(I wish that they were my friends becomes I wish that they be my friends and vice versa) I reported it. Is this a bug?


As far as I am concerned, I would reject any translation having "wish + subjunctive", because this tends to introduce a nuance of uncertainty or nostalgia that "veux" does not have.

The lesson here is that "vouloir" needs a subjunctive but it is not a subjunctive of doubt or regret, only a "mechanical" subjunctive, similar to the one you find after "il faut".


Certainly "wish (that) they were" [past subjunctive] implies regret here.

"Wish that they be" [present subjunctive], on the other hand, is, to my ear, akin to "want/wish them to be" (with "want" and "wish" being synonymous here, though "wish" sounds stilted or old-fashioned in this context), but, just like "want that they be", it would be unusual/outdated, and is probably best avoided for that reason.


"I want them to be my friends" is probably best here, and is the default translation (at least as displayed on the web version).

But if I understand the comments above correctly, "I wish them to be my friends" and "I wish (that) they were my friends" are also accepted, so I'm surprised that you'd have that problem.

I'd be surprised if "that they be" or "that they should be" were accepted, but I wouldn't write them off as possibilities.


Thanks @PeaceJoyPancakes and @Sitesurf. I just had to figure out what Duolingo wanted me to write. You both deserve lingots.


How about I want them to become friends?


That misses the sense of "my friends", but even if you were to insert "my", I think it would be too much of a paraphrase. "I want them to become" would be a good translation of "je veux qu'ils deviennent".


Well, that was something of a slip-up. I did mean to type "....become my friends."

But do you really feel "I want them to be my friends" is better than the "become" variation? I am amazed, since there is already so much paraphrasing going on with the "that they" sense surgically removed from the French original. Question: Do you think all this mental exercise will keep the dreaded Alzheimer's at bay...?? :-|


Yes, to both questions. ;-)

The grammar differences between the languages necessitate the structural paraphrase, but being and becoming can still be distinguished from one another in both languages, so that part can remain faithful in translation.


My answer 'I wish that they were my friends.' was WRONG. Following the discussion above, I think that this ought to have been accepted. Translation is, as I understand it, an attempt to render one language into another in a way that does justice to both languages. There can be no perfect translation.


If you back translate "I wish they were my friends", you get "j'aimerais qu'elles soient mes amies". This is the expression of a wish (like "I wish I were young forever") and not a will.

"Je veux qu'elles soient mes amies" says that you want them to be your friend, which is a stronger, more purposeful intent than wishing something that might never happen.


Listening to the speaker, I confused "Elles soient" for "Elle soit", they both sound exactly the same to me.


To everyone. However, the plural "mes amies" means that "elles soient" is the only option.


I am seriously baffled by this tense. I just translated the above as "I want them to become my friends" which was marked incorrect. I can see the difference but as a native british english speaker I don't understand the difference! Gah!


It is a pity that Duo cannot pick up obvious typos. I typed "I ant" here and was told I had used the wrong word. No - it was a typo!

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