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They don't have a printer at the office but they want one:

  1. Ils n'ont pas d'imprimante au bureau mais ils en ont envie.

  2. Ils n'ont pas d'imprimante au bureau mais ils en veulent une.

I'm confused because initially I thought number 1 requires "une," given the English translation, but it didn't. Then, when using the second statement without it, was told that now "une" was necessary.

If avoir envie de and voulouir mean the same thing, why does one require "une" and the other doesn't?

P.S. Can you explain this to me in English and in simple language, as I don't understand grammatical terms (like predicate, complement) very well.

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  • What does en mean in the first sentence? Would it be a shortened version of avoir envie d'une imprimante au bureau or of avoir envie d'avoir une imprimante au bureau? In other words, is it a translation of they don't have a printer at the office but they want one or they don't have a printer at the office but they want to? Jan 27, 2023 at 13:23
  • @PeterShor It is either "une imprimante" or "une imprimante au bureau", and it follows that it is not immediately clear which is right. I have never heard of a rule permitting to choose the antecedent when it is not shown by the context. The context here gives us to suppose that it is the second case. This could be called a loose construction. It can also be said that "mais" is not quite logical here.
    – LPH
    Jan 27, 2023 at 15:18

2 Answers 2

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  1. Ils n'ont pas d'imprimante au bureau mais ils en ont envie.

    Correct but not very idiomatic or sounds like a whim. We'd rather say:

    Ils n'ont pas d'imprimante au bureau mais ils aimeraient bien en avoir (une).

  2. Ils n'ont pas d'imprimante au bureau mais ils en veulent une.

    Fine, although possibly a little rude depending on the context. That could be:

    Ils n'ont pas d'imprimante au bureau mais ils en voudraient (une).

In both cases, une is optional. Not including it opens up the possibility of the need for more than one printer:

Ils n'ont pas d'imprimante au bureau mais ils en voudraient (plusieurs).

0

Number "1" can be used with "une". It is a redondant usage of a pronoun in both cases, but it is idiomatic, in particular in the second sentence, which might not be understood right away without "une".

  • Ils n'ont pas d'imprimante au bureau mais ils en ont envie d'une.

The comment from user mastödantirâfamî reflects a usage problem; "envie de un(e)" is not always very idiomatic; it is better to insert a verb so as to be sure to preserve usage. For certain nouns the combination without a verb is perfectly idiomatic.

Envie d'une voiture électrique ? Oubliez Volkswagen, Audi et

envie d'une cigarette

envie d'une télévision

envie d'un livre (Not to current but "envie d'un bon livre" is idiomatique, or modification is necessary: "Il avait envie d'un livre qu'il avait vu chez son frère.".)

So, why can this construction be used with the word "télévision" and not the word "imprimante"? It is difficult to say. Let's say that it is a matter of psychology and that one is not likely to say that, but it is not really incorrect to say it.

2.

"avoir envie" and "vouloir" do not mean exactly the same thing. "Envie" is suited to express natural desires whereas "vouloir" is more factual.

  • Il a envie d'aller en vacances dans une oasis.

This means that the person saying this has a desire to spend a vacation in an oasis, but not necessarily that they are intent on doing it.

  • Il veut aller en vacances dans une oasis.

This means that they have a definite intention of spending a vacation in an oasis.

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  • 1
    Ils en ont envie d'une seems to be completely unidiomatic. See Ngrams. Jan 27, 2023 at 12:30
  • @PeterShor I made the same check before I wrote my answer, found the same thing and thought something had to be wrong; that's to say how much it seems idiomatic to me. I made a further check and found this: "En a-t-elle envie d'un ?" (Oral Method with French: In Three Parts) google.fr/books/edition/Oral_Method_with_French/… Jean Gustave Keetels, an authority in French, couldn't have invented it. Anyway, why would it be incorrect with "avoir envie" but correct with "vouloir"?
    – LPH
    Jan 27, 2023 at 15:18
  • @PeterShor “Ils en ont envie d'une” feels perfectly idiomatic to me (native speaker from France). It's more natural than “ils en ont envie”: I would only use that for an action (“Partir? Ils en ont envie.”) or an uncountable noun (“Du pain? Ils en ont envie.”) or for a plural noun (“Des chips? Ils en ont envie.”), but for a singular noun I would add “d'une” (“Une imprimante? Ils en ont envie.”). Jan 27, 2023 at 17:07
  • @Gilles'SOnousesthostile' C'est curieux. Ils en ont envie d'une est une tournure pour moi très inhabituelle et maladroite et que je n'ai il me semble jamais entendue jusque là. Je n'ai pourtant aucun problème avec ils en ont besoin d'une. Pareil avec autre chose qu'un : J'en ai besoin de plusieurs : très courant, J'en ai envie de plusieurs : ??.
    – jlliagre
    Jan 27, 2023 at 22:44

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