Basic Japanese Grammar: Express Needs with 必要がある and 要る

Published April 26th, 2022

Expressing wants and needs are one of the most important things to know how to say in any language. After all, we need to know the difference between what we desire and what we require. We covered how to say “I want” in Japanese in Season 2 Episode 10 of the Nihongo Master Podcast (a recap article can be read here). In Season 4 Episode 2, we covered how to say “I need”.

This is part of our Study Saturday language series on the podcast, where we cover useful, everyday Japanese grammar in a fun and easy way. It is formatted just like the Nihongo Master online learning system, so if you’re thinking about signing up for our program, have a taste of what we have to offer by giving our episodes a listen!

This article is a recap of what we covered in the episode, but there’s enough information here for you to grasp the grammar. For more examples, listen to the full episode!

Grammar Point

To say “I need” in Japanese, there are two ways. Both are easy and simple. Depending on the context of the situation and the sentence structure, you have to pick which one to use.

Hitsuyou ga aru (必要がある)

The first way to say “I need” in Japanese is using the phrase “hitsuyou ga aru”. You attach it to the plain form of a verb. The format goes:

Verb (dictionary form) + 必要がある

Here’s an example sentence: “I need to study more.”

The verb in this sentence is “to study” which is benkyou suru (勉強する). “More” in Japanese is motto (もっと). Use the format from above and you get this sentence: “motto benkyou suru hitsuyou ga aru.” (もっと勉強する必要がある。)

Let’s translate another sentence: “I need to pack.”

The verb in this sentence is “to pack”, and in Japanese that is nidzukuri suru (荷造りする). So all you have to do is add the grammar point to the end of the plain form of the verb following our format: “nidzukuri suru hitsuyou ga aru”. (荷造りする必要がある。)

Iru (要る)

There’s another way to express needs, and that is with “iru” (要る). The pronunciation is the same as the phrase for “there is” — like “neko ga iru” (猫がいる) means “there is a cat”. But this “iru” is written differently in kanji.

Usually, we use “hitsuyou ga aru” when the thing that we need is a verb. If the thing that you need is a noun, we use “iru”. When attaching it with the noun, you have to use the particle “ga” (が). The format is:

Noun + が + 要る

Let’s translate this sentence: “we need to plan.”

While this sentence uses a verb “to plan”, which is junbi suru (準備する), it actually comes from the noun junbi (準備) to mean “preparation” or “arrangement”. The sentence following the format above is: “watashitachi ha junbi ga iru” (わたしたちは準備が要る。)

Let’s have another example: “we need money.”

The noun in the sentence is “money”, and in Japanese that is okane (お金). So we can say it as: “watashitachi ha okane ga iru.” (私達はお金が要る。)

Vocab Recap

In the episode, we have roleplaying scenarios exemplifying the two grammar above. We used so many new Japanese words. For those who tuned in, here’s a list of words for your reference:

Nidzukuri suru (荷造りする) — to pack

Keikaku (計画) — a plan

Junbi (準備) — preparation

Watashitachi (私達) — we

Okane (お金) — money

Motte iku (持って行く) — to bring

Haburashi (歯ブラシ) — toothbrush

Zenbu (全部) — all

Fuku (服) – clothes

Juubun (十分) — enough

Ryokō (旅行) — travel or trip

Genkin (厳禁) —cash

Yoyaku suru (予約する) — to book or make a reservation

Mada (まだ) — not yet

Hikōki (飛行機) — plane

Benri (便利) — convenient

Hayai (早い) — fast

Yasui (安い) — cheap

Okiru (起きる) — to wake up

Mitai (見たい) — want to see

Yaritai (やりたい) — want to do

Noritai (乗りたい) — want to ride

Bento (ベント) — packed lunch

What do you need?

Now you know how to say “I need” in two different ways in Japanese, what do you need? Maybe you need to buy some toiletries for your next trip, or you need to get some lunch. Whatever it is, you can now express them in Japanese! If you need more listening practice, go and listen to the full episode here!