Conjugation of the German verb ‘wollen’

Conjugation of the German verb ‘wollen’

by Jakob Straub

Updated November 7, 2022

The modal verb ‘wollen’ expresses a strong wish or an intention in German. Its usage is very similar to “want” in English. You can learn how to conjugate ‘wollen’ with our following overview and find out about the details of modal expressions with ‘wollen’.

How to conjugate the German modal verb ‘wollen’

The verb ‘wollen’ is irregular in German: “will”, “wollte” and “hat gewollt”. The auxiliary verb to use is ‘haben’ and the flection is active. When used as a modal verb, ‘wollen’ has no passive form.


1st sing.ich willich wollteich habe gewollt
2nd sing.du willstdu wolltestdu hast gewollt
3rd willer/sie/es wollteer/sie/es hat gewollt
1st pl.wir wollenwir wolltenwir haben gewollt
2nd. pl.ihr wolltihr wolltetihr habt gewollt
3rd. plsie wollensie wolltensie haben gewollt

1st sing.ich hatte gewolltich werde wollenich werde gewollt haben
2nd sing.du hattest gewolltdu wirst wollendu wirst gewollt haben
3rd hatte gewollter/sie/es wird wollener/sie/es wird gewollt haben
1st pl.wir hatten gewolltwir werden wollenwir werden gewollt haben
2nd. pl.ihr hattet gewolltihr werdet wollenihr werdet gewollt haben
3rd. plsie hatten gewolltsie werden wollensie werden gewollt haben

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1st sing.ich wolleich wollteich habe gewollt
2nd sing.du wollestdu wolltestdu habest gewollt
3rd wolleer/sie/es wollteer/sie/es habe gewollt
1st pl.wir wollenwir wolltenwir haben gewollt
2nd. pl.ihr wolletihr wolltetihr habet gewollt
3rd. plsie wollensie wolltensie haben gewollt

1st sing.ich hätte gewolltich würde wollenich würde gewollt haben
2nd sing.du hättest gewolltdu würdest wollendu würdest gewollt haben
3rd hätte gewollter/sie/es würde wollener/sie/es gewollt gedurft haben
1st pl.wir hätten gewolltwir würden wollenwir würden gewollt haben
2nd. pl.ihr hättet gewolltihr würdet wollenihr würdet gewollt haben
3rd. plsie hätten gewolltsie würden wollensie würden gewollt haben

Basic German verbs and conjugation

Infinitive, participle and imperative

“Wollen” and “gewollt haben” are the infinitive forms in the present and perfect tense. You can form the infinitive with ‘to’ as “zu wollen” and “gewollt zu haben”. The verb’s participles are “wollend” and “gewollt”

It’s tricky to phrase an imperative of ‘wollen’, since in all practicality, you can’t order someone to want something. However, in a literary or hypothetical sense, “wolle!” and “wollet!” (want!) are the singular and plural imperative forms of the modal verb. In a formal or polite sense, you can use the subjunctive to suggest that someone should do something: “Du wollest dein Zimmer aufräumen” (You may want to tidy your room), but ‘mögen’ is the more common modal verb for this.

You can use the present tense of ‘wollen’ to phrase exclamations:

  • 1st person singular: “Ich will!” = I want!
  • 2nd person singular: “Du willst!” = You want!
  • 3rd person singular: “Er/sie/es will!” = He/she/it wants!
  • 1st person plural: “Wir wollen!” = We want!
  • 2nd person plural: “Ihr wollt!” = You want!
  • 3rd person plural: “Sie wollen!” = They want.

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Usage of ‘wollen’ as a modal verb

In German, you can use ‘wollen’ with another verb in the infinitive to express a wish, a will, a desire or an intention to do something:

  • “Der Hund will spielen.” = The dog wants to play.
  • “Ich will dir helfen.” = I want to help you.
  • “Sie wollen ins Kino gehen.” = They want to go to the movies.
  • “Wollt ihr euch heute treffen?” = Do you want to meet today?
  • “Du willst ihn nicht stören.” = You don’t want to disturb him.

When used in the present tense, ‘wollen’ is stronger than the polite form ‘möchte’, which is the subjunctive of ‘mögen’. “Ich will dich sprechen.” (I want to talk to you) is therefore less polite and more insistent than “Ich möchte dich sprechen.” (I’d like to talk to you).

If you phrase a sentence with ‘wollen’ as a question or exclamation, you can also convey an invitation or request:

  • “Wollen wir Eis essen?” = Do we want to eat ice cream (Should we eat ice cream)?
  • “Wollen Sie sich nicht setzen?” = Don’t you want to sit down? (You might want to sit down.)
  • “Wollt ihr wohl ruhig sein!” = Do you want to be quiet! (Be quiet!)
  • “Wir wollen gehen!” = We want to go!
  • “Wollen Sie bitte warten?” = Do you want to wait, please (Would you wait, please)?

In general, inanimate objects don’t want to do things; however, you can construct German phrases with ‘wollen’ as a modal verb and a thing as the subject to express your attitude towards what’s happening:

  • “Es will nicht aufhören zu regnen.” = It doesn’t want to stop raining (though I’d like it to).
  • “Der Computer will nicht starten.” = The computer doesn’t want to start / won’t start (though it should / I want it to).
  • “Der Lärm will kein Ende nehmen.” = The noise doesn’t want to end (it’s unbearable).

Do you want to be the master of modals in German? We’ll explain how to use and conjugate modal verbs in German!

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