Basic Japanese Grammar: I Want… (欲しい・〜たい)

Published January 25th, 2022

One of the best times is towards the end of the year, because it’s packed with all the festive goodness! So many holidays and opportunities for gift giving! Anyone else always have a Christmas wish list to make it easy for your family and friends to get you a present? Or do you get questions like “what do you want for Christmas?” repeatedly?

Can you express your wants and desires in Japanese, so you can get your Japanese pals to get that as a present for you? In our Season 2 Episode 10 of the Nihongo Master Podcast, we looked at two ways to say “I want”.

Even though it’s quite perfect for the holiday season, you can use it regularly, and if you’re like me and you have lots of desires, you’ll be using it every day!

Grammar Point

I don’t know about you, but knowing how to express these desires in Japanese makes it so much more convenient sometimes. This is especially so when you are living in Japan or trying to improve your Japanese.

I want…

There are two basic grammar points to learn — and it expands from there. The easiest of them all is when you want to say a sentence similar to “I want a new book”. This is when the subject is a noun! So if you desire a particular item, you just attach ~hoshii (欲しい) or ~hoshiidesu (欲しいです) right after the noun. So in this case, hon (本) is “book” in Japanese, and atarashii (新しい) means “new”. With this grammar point, we always use the particle “ga” (が). You get this sentence: atarashii hon ga hoshii (新しい本が欲しい).

Now, to say that you want to do something, like “I want to see the Christmas illuminations”, we use a different grammar point — since it’s an action, take the verb and switch it to its stem form before adding ~tai (たい) or ~tai desu (たい). The word for “to see” in Japanese is miru (見る), and since it’s a ru- verb, its stem form is “mi” (見). Can you guess the Japanese words for “Christmas illuminations”? Kurisumasu iruminēshon (クリスマスイルミネーション). Put it all together and you get: kurisumasu iruminēshon wo mitai (クリスマスイルミネーションを見たい).

They want…

What if you want to express the desires of a third person? The sentence, “My boyfriend wants to go snowboarding” is a perfect example of that. ~tai then becomes ~tagatteiru (たがっている) or tagatteimasu (たがっています). Same way of forming it, just a longer grammar point: watashi no kareshi ha sunōbōdo ni ikitagatteiru (私の彼氏はスノーボードに行きたがっている)


That’s for expressing other people’s desires for doing something — what if I had said “my boyfriend wants a new book”? Well, ~hoshii then becomes ~hoshigatteiru (欲しがっている) or ~hoshigatteimasu (欲しがっています). This time, we do’t use the “ga” particle, but rather the “wo” particle. So the sentence then becomes: ”watashi no kareshi ha atarashii hon wo hoshigatteiru” (私の彼氏は新しい本を欲しがっている).

I want them to…

What if you’re trying to say that you want someone else to do something? We don’t use the ~tai grammar point but instead the ~hoshii one — with a slight difference. Usually, if we’re using ~hoshii, it’s with a noun followed by “ga” particle. But if you have the te-form of a verb before ~hoshii, it expresses that you want someone else to do something.

Let’s use this sentence as an example: “I want him to go to a ski resort with me.” The te-form of “iku: is itte (行って), and to say ”with me”, you usually attach ”issho ni” (一緒に) which means “together” to the word for “I”. Oh, we also mark the other person in the sentence with the “ni” (に) particle instead of “ha” (は). So the sentence becomes: kare ni watashi to issho ni sukī rizōto ni ittehoshii (彼に私と一緒にスキーリゾートに行って欲しい).

Similarly, if you want to express that you want someone to not do something, take its negative form and turn it into the te-form. If you want to say “I don’t want him to go to the bar”, the verb goes from positive iku, to negative ikanai (行かない), and then just add the ”de” (で). So then the sentence becomes: kare ni bā ni ikanaide hoshii (彼にバーに行かないで欲しい).

Vocab Recap

We used a lot of new words in this episode, so as usual, we wrapped it up with a quick vocab recap. Here’s a list for your reference:

Hon (本) — book

Atasrashii (新しい) — new

Miru (見る) — to see

Iku (行く) — to go

Issho ni (一緒に) — together

Kareshi (彼氏) — boyfriend

Kurisumasu (クリスマス) — Christmas

Iruminēshon (イルミネーション) — illumination

Sunōbōdo (スノーボード) — snowboard

Sukī (スキー) — ski

Rizōto (リゾート) — resort

Nekkurasu (ネックラス) — necklace

Zen zen shiranai (全然知らない) — to not know at all

Kongetsu (今月) — this month

Fuyu (冬) — winter

Samui (寒い) — cold

Kiite miru (聞いてみる) — to ask

Tanoshii (楽しい) — fun

Jikan (時間) — time

Tanjoubi (誕生日) — birthday

Kau (買う) — to buy

Ienai (言えない) — to not be able to say. It comes from the root word “iu” (言う), to mean “to say”

Fuku (服) — clothes

Himitsu (秘密) — secret

Now that you know how to express your wants and desires, you can quickly write up a Christmas list in Japanese for next year. Now’s your chance to say to your friends and family what you want in two languages, since you’re now a master at expressing your desires — as well as others’ — in Japanese!