Italian Lessons


When volendo implies the opposite of "wanting to."

The verb volere (to want, to desire) is a very common verb, one we learn early on, so that we can ask for things we need. It has a host of uses and different nuances of meanings you can read about if you look it up on WordReference


In this lesson, we will look at a particular use of this verb that uses the gerund form volendo. We have to be careful, because there is an often-used literal meaning and also a slightly skewed meaning, in which you have to know that there is negative implication included.



Let's start off with the basic, innocent, literal use of the gerund form of volere. We can translate it as "wanting"  or "wanting to." Note we don't usually translate it with the gerund in this context.

Però, volendo, possiamo usare anche un semplice coltello.

However, if we want to, we can also use a simple knife.

Caption 83, L'Italia a tavola Culurgiones D'Ogliastra - Part 1

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One handy thing about volendo, is that you don't necessarily have to talk about who wants something. It can stay nice and impersonal as in the following example. The key word in understanding volendo (as an expression), in terms of an English translation, is the conjunction if. We don't see it in the Italian, but we need it in the English translation.

Comunque il bagno è bello grande, ah. Visto che bella vasca? Volendo, ci stanno anche due spazzolini. Nel senso che, se dovesse capitare, puoi lasciare qua il tuo da me. Capito?

In any case, the bathroom is nice and big, huh. Did you see what a nice tub? If desired, there's even room for two toothbrushes. Meaning, that if it ever happened, you can leave yours here at my place. Understood?

Captions 79-83, Il Commissario Manara S1EP10 - Un morto di troppo - Part 6

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Actually, using volendo avoids having to construct a sentence in the subjunctive and conditional moods, although in English, that is just what we would do.

E poi anche volendo, come faccio a trovarlo se non so dov'è?

And besides, even if I wanted to, how could I find him if I don't know where he is?

Caption 95, Provaci Ancora Prof! S1E2 - Un amore pericoloso - Part 19

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But often, volendo is used to imply that something isn't a great idea, nor a likely one. So in translating it, we would add, "really." If one really wanted to do something. That's the nuance in this example from Provaci ancora Prof!.


Renzo bought an artist's multiple copy of a sculpture at a flea market. He's trying to explain what a multiple is to his daughter. 

Però un ricco collezionista potrebbe anche comprarseli tutti i multipli, se vuole. Potrebbe, sì. Volendo, potrebbe.

But a rich collector could also buy all the multiples if he wanted to. He could, yes. If he really wanted to, he could.

Captions 45-47, Provaci Ancora Prof! S1E4 - La mia compagna di banco - Part 14

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It can also be in response to something someone asks you to do, but in fact, you do not want to do, but you don't want to flat out say no, either. It can mean, "If I wanted to, I could, but I don't really want to." "If you absolutely need me to do it, I will, but I don't really want to." So hidden in the verb "wanting to" is "not wanting to."


We don't have examples of this last nuance from Yabla videos (yet) ... but here is an example of a possible dialogue.

Puoi andare alla riunione al posto mio (Can you go to the meeting in my place)?
Beh sì, volendo si può anche fare... [ma non credo sia una buona idea] (I could... [but I don't think it's a good idea]).



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