German Modal Verbs: Mögen, Möchten, & Wollen
This week’s episode of 3 Minuten Deutsch covered the difference between the German modal verbs “mögen”, “möchten”, and “wollen”. Technically, they are only two modal verbs and one extra form of one of the two, but it is so commonly used as if it were its own verb, it is easier for the learner to just pretend that “möchten” is a verb of its own.
Conjugation of mögen, möchten & wollen
Let’s start with the conjugation and meaning of each word.
“Mögen” is generally used as a stand alone verb. It is essentially the same thing as the combination of “haben” and “gern”. That means there are two ways to say that you like something (there is also a third one, but we will save “gefallen” for another time). Compare the two versions of each of the following sentences.
German Modal Verbs möchten vs wollen
“Möchten” is technically the subjunctive form of “mögen”. You often use the subjunctive to express hypothetical situations and polite forms. In this instance we use it to indicate the polite form “would like”. “Wollen” means “to want”. As in English, “to want” and “would like” are both very similar. English speakers consider “would like” to be more polite in English and German speakers consider “möchten” to be more polite than “wollen”. Let’s take a look at a few more examples to illustrate the point.
Don’t forget that if you use another verb with a German modal verb, the meaning verb goes to the end of the sentence as an infinitive. This is the form you will find in the dictionary or the form with an -en at the end of the verb.
With this little bit of information about “mögen”, “möchten”, and “wollen” you should be able to use these three German modal verbs properly in whatever situation they would merit.