Expressing desire in Japanese using たい and ほしい

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How to say I want something in Japanese? Expressing desire is not hard, but you need to make sure that you understand about Japanese concept of desire before you start saying “I want this, he want that, etc”

Concept of desire in Japanese

1. It is not proper to talk about the other party’s desire.
In Japanese, we need to assume that we never know what the other person would want. So it’s not appropriate to say “He/She want this”. Although it’s okay if you say “He said that he wants this” or “I think that he wants this”.

2. It is considered rude to say that you don’t want something when being asked about it.
Although you could say that you “don’t want” something, rejecting something is considered rude in Japanese. So how do you say that you don’t want something in Japanese without being rude?

Here is some options you can consider:
A.いいえ、けっこうです  iie,kekkou desu
No, I’m fine/ No thank you

B.それはちょっと。。。sore wa chotto…
That’s a bit…


3. Differentiate word for different type of desire
In English, the word “want” can cope with this three different type of desire
1. I want a new book
2. I want to read a new book
3. I want you to read a new book

But in Japanese, we need a different word for each of them. For 1 the type of desire we want is the object itself. While 2 is action, either just an action or an action toward an object. Type 3 however, is considered a request. Wanting to order something from a restaurant or similar situation is also considered a request.

We will cover type 1 and 2 on this lessons and Request in Japanese on future lessons, so stay tuned! 。゚✶ฺ.ヽ(*´∀`*)ノ.✶゚ฺ。

As you can see, Japanese people are really considerate with other people’s feeling and try the best to not being rude. Alright, now that you’ve grasp the concept of desire in Japanese culture, let’s start learning!

Want to do something [Action/Verb]

To say that you want to do something we use -たい.
How to use it? First, you conjugate the verb into the V-ます form. And then you replace the ます with たいです . So simple!



Nani o shitai desuka?

What do you want to do?

Omoshiroi hon o yomitaidesu.
I want to read a good (interesting) book



Want to HAVE something [Object/Noun]

To say that you want to have something we use ~が ほしい
As previously, it’s also super simple. Just say object/noun + が ほしいです


Nani ga hoshii desuka?
What do you want to have?

Akai Feraari ga hoshii desu.
I want to have a red Ferarri.



Tip ほしい is actually an い Adjective, so it conjugates like one


Note It is considered rude to say that you don’t want something when being offered. So don’t copy this example below.


Note The past form of ほしい is ~ほしかったです and used to express regret over not being able to get something that you wanted.

Note ほしい can be made to ask a request. So you basically saying that “I want you to do this”. But we will not cover it within this lessons. Since you need to know the conjugation of て form first. There will be a dedicated post about Request in Japanese in the future, so please stay tuned!  °˖✧◝(⁰▿⁰)◜✧˖°

We cannot assume that we know what other people want

You can only use たい and ほしい for what you want to have for yourself. Becareful not to talk about what other people want to have. But it’s okay to use ほしい to ASK about what other people want to have because by asking, you’re stating that you don’t know what they want.


So…“Do you want to eat cake?” is safe but you cannot say “He wants to eat cake”
“Do you want a new bag?” is okay, but you cannot say “She wants a new bag”

You need to say it as if you are not exactly sure. So it is okay to say “I think she wants a new bag”, “She said that she wants a new bag” and “She seems to want a new bag”. We will cover the “seems to want” below.

Anyway, if you’re confused, just remember that in Japan, we cannot assume that we know what other people are thinking/want (๑•̀ㅂ•́)و✧


As written above, it is safe to say “It seems like she wants (a noun/to do verb)”. But how we can express it?

We simply replace ~たい with ~たがっています and ~が ほしい with ~を ほしがっています

The conjugation for past/negative will be applied on the います.


Kare wa takai kuruma wo hoshigatte imasu.
It seems like he wants an expensive car.


Example for たがっています

Kare wa hon wo yomitagatte imasu.
It seems like he wants to read a book.


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