My boyfriend who is native German explained to me that “ich habe gewollt” just sounds wrong to him, he can’t explain why because he doesn’t know the rules he is just a native speaker. I am curious if there is a reason or it is just out of use. He said “ich wollte” is better. What I am trying to say is “I wanted” in the past tense.

  • 2
    A bit more context would be good. Or, in other words, don't ask for fragments of sentences.
    – Ingo
    Commented Nov 29, 2016 at 20:03
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    – Jan
    Commented Nov 29, 2016 at 20:06
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    @Ingo I don’t think context is needed. ‘Ich habe gewollt’ is fine in any context assuming that there is some kind of verb/object in the sentence.
    – Jan
    Commented Nov 29, 2016 at 20:15
  • @Jan "Ich wollte." just doesn't make sense on its own, and an answer is much easier for a specific example.
    – Ingo
    Commented Nov 29, 2016 at 20:20
  • Sorry, the reason I didn't add more context as I was just asking if you could use that form at all with anything. I.e. Ich habe in Berlin gehen gewollt or something, does that make the question clearer? Commented Nov 29, 2016 at 20:31

1 Answer 1


Your boyfriend is obviously not from Bavaria or Austria and very likely from the North of Germany. (To me, the North begins at the Main river.) There is nothing wrong with ‘Ich habe etwas gewollt’ or ‘Ich habe etwas tun wollen.’

In the South, especially Bavaria, there are exactly two verbs that form a preterite form at all, and those are sein and wollen. In spite of that, in spoken language it is still extremely common to use the perfect tense for wollen and depending on the sentence used, also for sein.

This question shows that usage is different in the North and the middle of Germany, where a number of verbs have preterite forms in common spoken usage. And I remember a quote by an Austrian who frequently posts here, saying in essence that preterite is an entirely written-only form in Austria.

  • können und mögen are missing on the list linked.
    – Janka
    Commented Nov 29, 2016 at 22:23
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    Wie schon Karl Valentin sagte: Mögen hätt ich schon wollen, aber dürfen habe ich mich nicht getraut. Commented Nov 30, 2016 at 10:28
  • @ThorstenDittmar Ich hab den Satz bisher immer mit täte formuliert: »Meng dad i scho wolln, bloß derfn hob i mi ned traut.«
    – Jan
    Commented Nov 30, 2016 at 20:20

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