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Swedish Power Verbs: att vilja Posted by on Nov 30, 2017 in Grammar, Swedish Language

Some verbs are just more useful than others. Att vilja, Swedish for “to want (to)”, is no exception!

Att vilja is the full infinitive form – in other words, it includes the basic infinitive form vilja, “want (to do something)”, and att, “to” as used before a verb. (More on this in a later post.) The verb is irregular, so here is a conjugation table fresh out of the Swedish verb oven for you:

att vilja to want to
jag vill I want to
jag ville I wanted to
jag har velat I have wanted to
jag hade velat I had wanted to
(also: I would have wanted to)
jag skulle vilja I would want to
(also: I would like to)
jag skulle ha velat I would have wanted to
(also: I would have liked to)
jag kommer (att) vilja I will want to
(att is optional with future kommer)
jag kommer ha velat I will have wanted to
(also: I will have liked to)

En vilja is also a noun meaning a will, as in one’s will to do something.

One important thing to keep in mind about the verb vilja, in particular its present form vill, is not to confuse it with English will! This is a very common mistake among new learners of Swedish. To say English will, use ska or kommer (att).

Another important thing to remember is that vilja can only be used before verbs. So, you can say Jag vill spela piano (I want to play the piano), but you cannot say *Jag vill ett piano (I want a piano). To say the latter, you must add ha, “to have”, after vilja. In other words, if you want a noun, such as ett piano or en kram (a hug), you have to say Jag vill ha ett piano or Jag vill ha en kram.

In other words, it’s best to think of att vilja as meaning “to want to (do something)” rather than just “to want”. It then follows that Jag vill ha means “I want to have”.

Another important note is that Swedish verbs are never conjugated based on who the subject is – regardless of it’s first-, second-, or third-person, singular or plural, the conjugations are always the same. 🙂 Swedish isn’t so hard after all!

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About the Author: Stephen Maconi

Stephen Maconi has been writing for the Transparent Swedish Blog since 2010. Wielding a Bachelor's Degree in Swedish and Nordic Linguistics from Uppsala University in Sweden, Stephen is an expert on Swedish language and culture.