My tutor says that "бы" should follow "хотел". Example: "бы хотел стать". What do you think is most correct and natural?


"Бы" can follow or precede "хотел", it can even be separated from "хотел" by one or several words, but surely "бы" cannot begin a sentence or a clause. All the following sentences are correct:

Я бы хотел стать космонавтом.

Я хотел бы стать космонавтом.

Космонавтом бы я стать хотел.

Стать бы космонавтом я хотел.

Я космонавтом бы стать хотел.

  • more exactly, бы can be anywhere before the verb (except the beginning of the sentence) but only immediately after one.
    – Quassnoi
    Dec 10 '15 at 18:11
  • @Quassnoi - Do you think "Я хотел космонавтом бы стать" is impossible?
    – Yellow Sky
    Dec 10 '15 at 18:17
  • it's unnatural, as if you are making your way out of a sentence where you have forgotten to put the бы in the first place. Also, you have two verbs in your sentence, and бы can be attributed to either one. The farther apart from the verb бы is in a single-verb sentence like я сделал работу за него бы, the more unnatural it sounds.
    – Quassnoi
    Dec 10 '15 at 18:39
  • @Quassnoi not necessarily, in я сделал работу за него бы, бы is attributed to него, and stresses the tone that I'd do the job for the specific person (him). Although, such usage is rare and with incorrect intonation it can sound awkward.
    – noncom
    Dec 10 '15 at 22:22
  • That is wrong word order and it sounds bad with any intonation; if you need an emphasis on "за него" you can simply put it like this: "за него я сделал бы работу" or "за него я бы сделал работу".
    – Alex_ander
    Dec 11 '15 at 6:20

бы cannot be the first word in a sentence.
But in your example it doesn't matter where it is placed - before or after a verb:

Я бы хотел…
Я хотел бы…

  • 2
    I should say that for a plain statement of fact, the former form is the best. The second form rather suggests opposition or comparison: - Я хотел бы стать космонавтом. - А я бы хотел стать экзорцистом.
    – ach
    Dec 10 '15 at 18:47
  • Hmm, well, it matters for something - я бы хотел is more directly egoistic than я хотел бы, i.e. it puts more accent on я, making it more important that it is exactly that I want something. Can be used for additional separation of I from the others during a conversation, when each participant is required to express what he would want. In english a similar effect can be acheived by a strong intonational stress on I as opposed to on want.
    – noncom
    Dec 10 '15 at 22:27

If you don't need to emphasize some part of the sentence specifically, it's better to put бы right after the main verb.

Because if you put it somewhere it a sentence, it will be hard to catch the main idea that the sentence is one of a conditional sentences.

Especially if you have more than one verb (as homogeneous parts of the sentence).

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