I was wondering what is difference between wollen and möchten? When exactly do we have to use each of both?

for example, which of the following is correct?

  • Ich möchte Ingenieur werden.

  • Ich will Ingenieur werden.


"Wollen" expresses a (perhaps very) strong will to achieve something. Using it can make an aggressive impression and so it is rarely used in formal letters, but rather at a protest march or a heated debate.

"Wir wollen mehr Gerechtigkeit für Arbeitslose!"
"Ich will, dass du sofort aufhörst zu rauchen."

"Möchten" is a polite way of expressing will and is often used in formal letters. It can also be a way of avoiding to express absolute certainty of your will.

"Ich möchte Sie (freundlich) bitten, mir weiteres Informationsmaterial zu senden."
"Er möchte die Qualität seines Unterrichts hoch halten."

  • So if I want to ask someone "What do you want", it will be "Was möchtest du?" .. right?
    – fujy
    Sep 14 '14 at 21:22
  • 1
    @fujy.. that depends on context. If you want to be polite, then yes, you'd use "möchten", if you want to be not polite or if you're with friends you'd use "wollen"
    – Emanuel
    Sep 14 '14 at 22:11

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.