Italian You Won’t Learn in Class: Volere

Jan 7, 2016

In a continuing series of posts, Riccardo Cristiani, the head Italian teacher at Dante Learning, tells how to learn conversational Italian using the verb “volere.

2016 image blog

If You Want to Learn Italian This Year

by Riccardo Cristiani

A famous Italian dramatist and poet of the 18th century, Vittorio Alfieri, after the success of his first drama, Cleopatra, became so determined to study, learn and write more , that he asked his servants to tie him tight to his chair with rope while he was working on new pieces  to avoid distraction. His motto was “volli, sempre volli, fortissimamente volli.” (I wanted, always wanted, very strongly wanted.)

Today I will introduce some alternative uses of the verb volere and a few idioms. The sentences are in Italian. Try to translate them.

  • volerci -– to be necessary:  Per imparare l’italiano ci vuole tanta pazienza.
  • volere bene –- to love: Voglio bene alla mia famiglia e ai miei amici.
  • volere dire -– to mean: La parola inglese “boat” vuol dire “barca.”
  • volersela — to ask for it:  Ho punito mio figlio ma se l’è voluta!
  • volerne a qualcuno –  to hold it against someone. Non me ne volere. (Do not hold it against me.)

As you can see, when we combine a verb with some pronouns, like ci and ne, we can change completely the original meaning. For example, just adding ci to volere changes it from “want” to “be necessary”.

And now some set phrases, proverbs and idioms with volere:

  • Voglio proprio vedere la sua faccia — I really want to see his face (used ironically)
  • Qui ti voglio! — Let’s see how you handle it.
  • Volere è potere — Where there's a will, there's a way.
  • Non ne voglio sapere — I don’t want to know about it.
  • Non ne vuole sapere — He doesn’t want to do it.

And finally…

  • Vuoi la botte piena e la moglie ubriaca” (Literally, "You want a full barrel of wine and a drunk wife.”)  This old proverb means that you want only positive things even when it’s not possible.

These are just a few examples, good for beginners to practice and for more advanced students to make their Italian more natural. Hopefully, this brief post on the Italian verb volere will give you some motivation for learning our beautiful language.

I would like to contribute to the New Year’s resolution to learn Italian with a gift for Dianne’s readers. Below are three links to Italian quizzes. Choose your level and enjoy it. Then, if you complete your quiz, you can book a free Italian Skype class with me.




Grazie a tutti e felice anno nuovo!

Dante-Learning is an online Italian language school based in Milan and Tokyo, with students from many countries, including the U.S., Canada, Australia and Japan.

Dianne Hales is the author of MONA LISA: A Life Discoverednow available in paperback, and LA BELLA LINGUA: My Love Affair with Italian, the World's Most Enchanting Language.

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