Sunday, 30 August 2009

J'aurais voulu...

So you know how when you learned French at school you were taught that when you went to the boulangerie, you should say, "Je voudrais une baguette"? And if you ever spent any time in France after that, you probably started to say just, "Une baguette, s'il vous plaît?"

So why is it that all of a sudden, I am hearing “J'aurais voulu...” all over the place? Is this something that all French people say and I've never noticed it before? Is it a regionalism? (In the Ile de France? Surely not!)

Or how about this;

Je veux = I want [not very polite]
Je voudrais = I would like (if you were so kind as to offer it to me) [polite]
J'aurais voulu = I would have liked (if you had been so kind as to offer it to me, but I'm not going to make that assumption)

Is the third one “more” conditional and therefore more polite? The people of my town certainly appear to be extremely refined.

I'm also considering a fourth possibility: that getting what you want immediately is so unlikely in France that it's better to assume that it's not even being offered to you, but here in the bakeries of Perfect Town (which is where I spend a lot of my time, purely to improve my French of course!) that is so improbable that it feels rude even to suggest it.


  1. I don't know why people say it, but I say it as well and it's definitely not specific to IdF!

  2. Excellent. I'm going to start saying it too in the hope that it will make me smell less Scottish!

  3. I guess it's like in Italian - in school you learn to say "Vorrei... per favore", but no Italian actually talks like that. "Volevo... grazie" is actually the standard, even though it seems like you're asking for something you used to want but have since changed your mind!!

  4. I'm starting to feel as if I can justify the hours I spend online as "educational"!