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How to express desire in Japanese using “たい” & “ほしい”

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How to express desire in Japanese using “たい” & “ほしい”

Last time, we took a good last look at verb conjugations by introducing the te-form. This week you will learn how to express desire or wanting something in Japanese by using “tai” and “hoshii”.

Table of Contents
[About “たい” & “ほしい”]
[The difference between “たい” & “ほしい”]
[How to use “~たい”]
[Expressing a third party’s wishes with verbs]
[How to use “~ほしい”]
[Expressing a third party’s wishes with nouns]

[About “たい” & “ほしい”]

“たい” and “ほしい” are two grammatical constructs used very frequently in the Japanese language. They both enable you to express desire – or wanting something – in a very similar way. In this lesson, we will take a look at how to use them correctly. Don’t forget to watch Shiho’s video while reading the article for full immersion!

[The difference between “たい” & “ほしい”]

So, what exactly is the difference between these two constructs if they both express desire? The answer lies in the grammatical implementation. While “tai” is used for verbs, “hoshii” is attached to nouns. The basic construction looks like this:

たい → verb + たい
ほしい → noun + が + ほしい

[How to use “~たい”]

“Tai” is a grammatical construct in Japanese used to express the speaker’s wishes or desires using verbs. To use “tai” with a verb, you simply take the “masu”-form of any verb, omit the “masu”-ending itself and attach “tai” instead. Easy as pie, right? Look at the following example:

たべる → たべますたい
(辞書形) (マス形)  

… and now you’ve successfully expressed that you would like to eat something! Look at the following example sentences you are now technically able to construct!

富士山に登りたい
I want to climb Mt. Fuji.

富士山に登りたいと思っています。
I am thinking about climbing Mt. Fuji.

富士山に登りたくない
I don’t want to climb Mt. Fuji.

富士山に登りたくなかった
I didn’t want to climb Mt. Fuji.

富士山に登りたかったが時間がなくて登れなかった。
I wanted to climb Mt. Fuji, but I couldn’t climb it because I didn’t have enough time.

Did you notice something? Exactly, you can conjugate “tai”! Look at the following table for each conjugation form:

現在げんざい
Present tense
過去かこ
Past tense
肯定こうてい
Positive statement
~たい ~たかった
否定ひてい
Negative statement
~たくない ~たくなかった

[Expressing a third party’s wishes with verbs]

Now you know how to express your own desires or wishes using “tai”. But what do you do when you want to express someone else’s wishes? In that case, you cannot use “tai” the same way you use it for expressing your own wishes.
If you wish the express a third party’s desires, you will need to attach “~そうだ, “らしい”, or “と言っています” to “tai”:

田中さんはパリに行きたい そうだ
             らしい
             と言っています

Alternatively, instead of using “tai”, you can also use the expression “~たがる” for expressing what a third party wants to do. Just like “tai”, “tagaru” is attached to the stem of the “masu”-form of verbs:

田中さんはパリに行きたがる。
Mr. Tanaka wants to go to Paris.

田中さんはパリに行きたがっている。
Mr. Tanaka wants to go to Paris.

As you can see, you can also conjugate “~たがる” to a certain extent. Since it is mostly used to express current state of affairs, it is often used in the “te”-form plus “iru”, which expresses current actions or circumstances.
However, depending on who you are talking about, “tagaru” can lack in politeness. So when you are unsure, try and use the other expressions you can attach to “tai” above.

[Receiving permission using “たい”]
Using “tai” to create sentences is not overly complicated. So if you have already mastered expressing your wishes in Japanese, let’s level it up a bit and use “tai” as an introduction to receive permission or approval for something you wish to do, or you wish someone else to do.
There are two sentence frameworks you can use:

① ~たいんですが、~てもいいですか?
② ~たいんですが、~てもらえませんか?

Examples:
トイレに行きたいんですが、行ってもいいですか?
I would like to go to the toilet. Is it okay if I go?

新宿に行きたいんですが、道を教えてもらえませんか?
I would like to go to Shinjuku. Can you tell me the way?

[How to use “~ほしい”]

“Hoshii” is a grammatical construct in Japanese used to express the speaker’s wishes or desires using nouns. You can combine it with nouns in the following way:

Noun + が + ほしい

Examples:
水がほしい。
I want water.

カメラがほしい。
I want a camera.

大きいな車がほしかった。
I wanted a big car.

Just like with “tai”, you can conjugate “ほしい” to a certain extent:

現在げんざい
Present tense
過去かこ
Past tense
肯定こうてい
Positive statement
~ほしい ~ほしかった
否定ひてい
Negative statement
~ほしくない ~ほしくなかった

[Expressing a third party’s wishes with nouns]

Again, just like “tai”, “hoshii” is used to express the speaker’s wishes and desires and cannot directly be used when talking about a third party. However, just like with “tai”, you can attach certain expressions in order to make it possible:

田中さんは水がほしい そうだ
           らしい
           と言っています

[Using “~ほしい” to express your desire for someone else’s actions]
If you want to express your desire for someone else to do something, you can combine “~ほしい” with verbs using the “te”-form.

~に…~てほしい 

Example:
(私は)あなた手伝ってほしいんですが…
It would be great if you could help me… / I would like you to help me…

(私は)みんなにこの本を読んでほしい。
I want everyone to read this book.

With this kind of expression the “私は” can usually be omitted. In the case of “みんな” you might include it, but usually the person you are talking to knows you are talking about them, so the “あなたに” is also usually omitted.

Additionally, you can use “~てほしい” when wishing for something to happen in general. Want it to snow? To rain? To become spring? All of that can be expressed with “~てほしい”. For that, you simply add “noun + が” before “~てほしい”:

~が…~てほしい。

もっと雪降ってほしい
I wish it would snow more.

近くにデパート建ってほしい
I wish they would build a department store near here.

That’s it for today’s lesson! Being able to use “~たい” and “~ほしい” will help increase your ability to express yourself greatly, so practice them by using them in actual conversations!

As always, don’t forget to check out the video on this class and tune in to our livestream every wednesday at 6pm (JST) for the real deal!

単語たんごリスト(Vocabulary list)
表現ひょうげん Expression
願望がんぼう Desire, wish
のぞ To wish for, to desire
希望きぼう Hope, wish
許可きょか Permission
もとメル To request, to want, to wish for
省略しょうりゃく Omission, abbreviation
あそびに To go out and play, to go and visit (e.g. a friend)
前置まえお Preface, introduction

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