"I would like" being ich möchte. Is it less polite to say ich will (i.e I want)?

Does it matter, is the politeness noticed or is it just because in English there is an overly polite way of saying most things?


5 Answers 5


"Ich möchte" ist ein wenig höflicher als "ich will", aber in vielen Fällen ist "ich will" völlig in Ordnung.

"Ich will ein Erdbeereis" ist ok, wenn man es dem Eisverkäufer sagt. "Ich will zum Bahnhof" ist ok, wenn man es dem Taxifahrer sagt. Man kann Passanten fragen: "Ich will zum Bahnhof. Können Sie mir sagen, wo ich entlanggehen muss?" und das ist völlig in Ordnung.

Es schadet natürlich nicht, ein "bitte" anzuhängen. Das macht meiner Meinung nach mehr Höflichkeit aus als "möchte" vs "will".


To add a so far not yet discussed variant:

Ich will may be the better and more polite variant when our wish is related to something we do by ourselves.


Ich will nicht aufrdinglich sein, aber ...
Ich will Euch keine Umstände machen ...
Ich will nun direkt zur Kernaussage kommen ...
Ich will morgen etwas früher aufstehen ...

In these cases using subjunctive would introduce an unwanted uncertainty which in turn may then be perceived as less polite (though definitely not rude).

In case we ask somebody else to do something for us we use the subjunctive for exactly this uncertainty which gives the other a (even if hypothetical) chance to decline our wish. This leads to a positive, polite perception.

  • Ich möchte dir ja nicht zu nahe treten, aber auch in diesen Fällen ist "will" oft nicht die höflichste Wahl. Commented Dec 1, 2014 at 22:57
  • @HagenvonEitzen to my experience "ich will" still is considered polite enough to use it in the context I gave. May this be a regional difference?
    – Takkat
    Commented Dec 2, 2014 at 7:18

It does matter.

For little children, "ich will" is the normal way of communicating wishes: "Ich will Schokolade!"

Also in more private relationships it's not necessarily seen as rude or impolite: "Ich will mal wieder shoppen gehen".
And in a more intimate context: "Ich will, dass du... (imagine any sexual practice)!"

However in the common adult world, "Ich möchte" or - even better - "Ich hätte gern" is the usual way of asking for something.
It signals your counterpart that you respect her/him and there's no need to argue (and if, this can happen on an objective level).

  • 1
    When ordering food or drinks, some people say "ich nehme" or "ich kriege".
    – Robert
    Commented Dec 1, 2014 at 17:20
  • @Robert... where are you from? I do work in "Gastro" and at least amongst my colleagues "Ich kriege" is frowned upon. Like... if you're already getting a coffee, then good for you. I know that people do say it, but I'd advise learners to stay away from it.
    – Emanuel
    Commented Dec 1, 2014 at 17:51
  • "... is the usual way of asking for something"... that is true, if something is a purchasable item. If it is a "deed" then "ich hätte gerne" is pretty unlikely. "Ich hätte gerne, dass du jetzt ruhig bist"..
    – Emanuel
    Commented Dec 1, 2014 at 17:52
  • @Emanuel Rheinland. Ich finde "ich kriege" auch nicht besonders toll, aber es ist hier üblich.
    – Robert
    Commented Dec 1, 2014 at 18:16
  • @Emanuel This is really common, otherwise the old joke about a guest ordering in a topless restaurant ("Ich bekomme einen strammen Max" - "Dann machen Sie doch die Augen zu, Sie Ferkel") would not work - But even stranger is the question by the waiter serving: "Wer von Ihnen war nochmal das Schnitzel?" Commented Dec 1, 2014 at 22:54

It depends entirely on whether you are (a) telling someone that you want to get something from him or her, or (b) describing a process (that is possibly already going on) to a third person who has no influence on what will happen. In the first case, it is definitely impolite to say "ich will". In the second case it's a matter of how you wish to describe your own desires or necessities.

When ordering food in a restaurant, for example, it is rather rude to tell the waiter "ich will...". But if you go to a restaurant with a large group of people and each of you says what he or she wishes to order, so when it is your turn the waiter already takes it for granted that you will order some food or drink, you may almost as well say "ich will", because the "formal requirements" of the conversation have already been fulfilled by whoever was the first person to talk to the waiter. When you talk to each other about what you want to eat and drink, there is no problem at all with saying "ich will", though perhaps it would not be the most elegant way of expressing yourself.


Yes. In some settings, even möchte is impolite, it would be common to ask your boss for a pay rise or to order a coffee with "Ich hätte gerne ...".

Edith: I want to add that there is no general rule. As far as I know, people from North Germany are supposed to be a little bit more direct than in Southern Germany. Unfortunately, the true standard even here is "Vier Brezle", which I would spell out as "Ich hätte gerne vier Brezeln".

I enjoy politeness. It gives me a lot of room to get more direct if someone does not want to play the game the polite way.

  • "möchte" is not impolite, it's just a bad call to ask for a raise if all you have is "hey, I'd really like more money"
    – Robert
    Commented Dec 1, 2014 at 17:19
  • @robert... I actually agree that "möchten" can very easily come across rather "in the face"-ey. In a restaurant context it is among the least heard choices. "Ich möchte das du gehst", yes, that is "polite" but it's just a "wollen" in disguise. Phrasings like these are common.
    – Emanuel
    Commented Dec 1, 2014 at 17:49

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

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