Voulez-vous is an inverted statement, meaning it’s the start of a question: “Do you want…?”
Voulez is the third person formal or plural (vous) conjugation of the verb vouloir (to want) in thet present simple tense.
You may be familiar with these two words from the phrase Voulez-vous coucher avec moi ce soir ? (Do you want to sleep with/go to bed with me tonight?). As we explored in an article about this infamous quote, this phrase is actually jarring to native French speakers, since it uses the formal vous with a very informal request! The phrase’s first known appearances are in works by mid-20th century American writers and poets, so it’s possible they made a mistake when they wrote it down, or simply that, as the song Lady Marmalade, which popularized it would suggest, it was said by prostitutes who were using vous to address passersby, rather than one person.
Regardless of its origin, this phrase is not used in contemporary French.
Whenever you use it, remember that if you’re trying to be very polite, it’s better to opt for the vouloir in the conditional tense, which translates to “would like”: Voudriez-vous manger ? (Would you (all) like to eat?)
- Do you (all) want…?
- Voudriez-vous…? (Would you (all) like…? – more polite because the conditional tense is used)
- Avez-vous envie de… (Do you want… (must be followed by a verb infinitive or a noun)
- Vous voulez…? (You want….You wanna….? (more informal)