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In the chorus of the song « Les animaux sont nos amis », around 1:00 in this video, Pomme sings:

Il faut agir dès aujourd'hui si nous voulons tous les sauver.

The Spanish is translated thus:

...si queremos salvarlos a todos.

This translation means "save all the animals", rather than "if we all want to save" the animals.

I would have thought this placement of tous would have favoured the second interpretation. Is this...

  1. Perfectly fine all day every day
  2. Fine in the context of poetry to allow an end rhyme
  3. A mistranslation in Spanish
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The sentence is ambiguous but the second meaning ("we all want to save them") is not likely to be right so I would rule out a mistranslation.

If that were intended, we could say:

Nous tous, on veut les sauver.

To convey "we want to save them all" in everyday speech, I believe « nous voulons les sauver tous » / « on veut les sauver tous » would be preferred to « nous voulons tous les sauver » / « on veut tous les sauver » but the latter form is far from unheard, e.g.:

et les desserts... il nous faudra revenir encore pour venir à bout de l’ardoise car nous en avons goûté quelques-uns mais on veut tous les manger !!! (trip advisor)

With a singular subject, tous is no longer ambiguous:

Je veux tous les tuer. RTBF. I want to kill them all.

Hence, your first hypothesis is right: it is perfectly fine either way. As iNyar commented, prepending tous emphasizes it. The order could also have been chosen for the reasons you cite (poetry/rhyme).

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  • To clarify, do you mean that (a) it means all the animals, and (b) that interpretation of this word order is fine in poetry?
    – Luke Sawczak
    Nov 8, 2020 at 5:21
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    @LukeSawczak (a) Yes, it means "all the animals". (b) I'd say that both word orders are perfectly fine in everyday speech. Indeed, the canonical word order would be "les sauver tous" (its advantage being to avoid the ambiguity), but "tous les sauver" is used as well, not only for the rhyme, but also to put slightly more emphasis on the action (by putting "sauver" at the end of the sentence) than insisting on the exhaustivity. Both orders sound really normal to my ears.
    – iNyar
    Nov 10, 2020 at 23:03

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