Can I always use wanted in the following sentences to show politeness? and will it cause confusion to the listener as they may think that I've changed my mind before saying to them? or if I speak in the present time I should only use want?

Here are the sentences:

  1. I just wanted you to know that I was appreciated your help last night
  2. I just wanted to say thank you
  3. I just wanted to let you know......
  4. I just wanted to invite him over: Like this one that I mean in the question. Does this mean the speaker has changed their mind? or it's acceptable to say just to show politeness when he/she wants him to come over? but will it cause confusion if someone says it?
  • 2
    No 1 must read either: I just wanted you to know that I appreciated your help last night (omitting was). Or, I just wanted you to know that I was appreciative of your help last night. A useful alternative phrase is I'd like you to know.. Aug 17, 2021 at 21:33

2 Answers 2


"I just wanted..." is a common way to approach a difficult topic or conversation. For example, it might be embarrassing to compliment someone unexpectedly.

  • "I just wanted to say, I really like your shirt." Or it might seem insulting to point out a problem to someone, but you need to do it. "I just wanted to tell you, your zipper is unzipped."

Sometimes starting a conversation can seem like an interruption, so you are saying why you are interrupting.

  • "I just wanted you to know that I was appreciated your help last night."

But if you are confronting someone, it has a different feeling. It can indicate that you didn't have bad motives.

  • "Why did steal my car?" "I just wanted to drive it around. I was going to return it."
  • "Why did you eat those cookies? You know they make you fat!". "I just wanted to know what they taste like."

I can't think of any instances where there would be confusion about whether you are talking about the past or the present.


1–3 are clear from context that you are softening your tone by adding "I ... wanted", rather than equivocating because the event you want is happening with certainty. It helps that you are talking directly to the pertinent person.

In 4, you are talking about event not yet determined. There is uncertainty about what will happen, so "I ... wanted" reinforces that uncertainty rather than simply being polite. Thus, it can be confusing.

"I wanted" is a little bit more polite in tone than "I want", but I consider the difference trivial.

"I ... wanted" could cause confusion because "I ... wanted" can be used to indicate combativeness: "I just wanted a quiet night alone!" This should be clear in context whether you are being positive or unhappy.

  • so I can use both of them but it doesn't matter as they depend on my tone and the context when I say it. Am I right?
    – Rosé Cop.
    Aug 17, 2021 at 20:57
  • @RoséCop both of what? Aug 17, 2021 at 20:59
  • Sorry that I didn't mention what I meant exactly. So what I meant to say is according to your answer I can use both want and wanted right?
    – Rosé Cop.
    Aug 17, 2021 at 21:15
  • @RoséCop. I edited because I did not fully understand. Aug 17, 2021 at 21:23

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