If a sentence like er will eine Beziehung/etwas kaufen/nichts is the desiderative use of modal verbs, what would you call structures like er will das nicht gewusst haben?


1 Answer 1


(1) Er soll von nichts gewusst haben.
(2) Er will von nichts gewusst haben.

Sollen and wollen in these examples can be called berichtend; in the literature, terms like reportiv and quotativ are used.*

In the reporting use of these verbs, sollen indicates that the source of knowledge is some third party, while wollen puts the subject as the source, as indicated by the following paraphrases.

(1') Es wird behauptet, er habe von von nichts gewusst.
(2') Er behauptet, er habe habe von nichts gewusst.

* See for instance the following work (which, although unfortunately not publicly accessible, allows searching the text for the aforementioned terms): Werner Abraham and Elisabeth Leiss (eds.), Funktionen von Modalität, https://doi.org/10.1515/9783110333091.

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