FR: J’aurais voulu ne plus l’entendre - conditionnel passé

Kay Champs

Senior Member
This is a sentence from a passage from "L'étranger" by Camus.

Meursault now enters a room where the coffin containing his mother's body lies.

"Peu après, une des femmes s’est mise à pleurer. ... Elle pleurait à petits cris, régulièrement : il me semblait qu’elle ne s’arrêterait jamais. .... La femme pleurait toujours. J’étais très étonné parce que je ne la connaissais pas. J’aurais voulu ne plus l’entendre.


While it is not contrary to the reality that Merusault did wish not to hear her cry any longer (because this is what he thought or felt himself), why must "vouloir" be in conditionnel or Subjunktiv.

This mood in French […], except in discours indirect, has a hidden condition left unsaid. What would be the hidden condition in this case?
Last edited by a moderator:
  • Rather than "he would have wished", he obviously DID wish not to hear her anymore. Why does the author then not write "he wished not to … " straightforwardly? Is the author guessing or supposing Meursault’s feeling or is there some kind of hidden condition behind this feeling of his that could be expressed by "if … "?
    First of all, minor correction (he -> I) (though besides the point):
    "Why does the author then not write "J'ai voulu ..." instead of "J'aurais voulu".

    Well, I am considering Maitre Capello's remark. Please give me some time.
    In fact, the "problem" here is that an infinitive clause is used in French, but the infinitive cannot render the counterfactual aspect. The only conjugated verb is therefore in the past conditional to indicate counterfactuality.

    Je voudrais ne plus l'entendre = I wish I didn't hear her any longer (now)
    J'aurais voulu ne plus l'entendre = I wished I didn't hear her any longer (at that time)
    J'ai voulu ne plus l'entendre = I wanted not to hear her any longer.

    What would be the hidden condition in this case?
    Si j'avais eu le choix, si ç'avait été possible = if I had had the choice, if it had been possible
    Last edited:
    I think I now understand what Capello means when he says « the counterfactual aspect is moved from entendre to the modal verb vouloir ».

    While in fact « entendre » is counterfactual, you could not express this in French autrement que by putting « vouloir » in coniditionnel in this case. Exactly!

    Thank you, BOND and Capello.