Expressing Desire (Want) in Japanese 「〜たい、〜欲しい」

Dr. Fumbles

Senior Member
English - US
I know how to express "X wants X" in basic Japanese. However, I have specific questions that no one seems to be able to answer. So I'm hoping I can get answers here.
(Note: I'm keeping the grammar very basic which is why I will be using only the base forms.)
(For any beginners, I took the liberty of also providing a purely phonetic spelling after each example. They are all in kana. Do not continue to rely on romaji; romaji are a crutch.)
[SORRY FOR THE LONG POST IN ADVANCE. It's just that I want to be thorough and have the question completely resolved if possible. Thank you for your understanding.]

First, this is what I know how to say from what I've learned:
I want to go: 行きたい。「いきたい」
I want that: 其れが欲しい。「それ・が・ほしい」
(Because when 〜たい or 〜欲しい are in a statement, they mean "I want".)

Do you want to go?: 行きたいか。「いきたい・か」
Do you want that?: 其れが欲しいか。「それ・が・ほしい・か」
(Because when 〜たい or 〜欲しい are in a question, they mean "Do you want".)

He/She/It wants to go: 行きたがる。「いきたがる」
He/She/It wants that: 其れが欲しがる。「それ・が・ほしがる」

Does he/she/it want to go?: 行きたがるか。「いきたがる・か」
Does he/she/it want that?: 其れが欲しがるか。「それ・が・ほしがる・か」

My question is this:
Is it possible to express "we want", "you all want", and "they want"? I've seen some hints here and there, but I'm not entirely sure. On Google translate, I translated "We want to eat." and got: "私たちは食べたい。
That helps, but I can't be too sure that Google translate is 100% accurate.

Here's what I think you can say, but I would like some confirmation. I'm only going to use "行きたい" to keep this short:
Do I want to go? 僕は行きたいか。「ぼく・わ・いきたい・か」
You want to go. あなたは行きたい。「あなた・わ・いきたい」
We want to go. 僕達は行きたい。「ぼくたち・わ・いきたい」
Do we want to go? 僕達は行きたいか。「ぼくたち・わ・いきたい・か」
They want to go. あの人達は行きたがる。「あの・ひとたち・わ・いきたがる」
Do they want to go? あの人達は行きたがるか。「あの・ひとたち・わ・いきたがる・か」

Based on every resource I've ever run across, I think that you would never need to say anything like that. So, if true, then that's why we only ever see "I want", "Do you want?", and "he/she/it wants".

So, if anyone can confirm any of this, thank you very, VERY much in advance. I have been looking for the answer to this question for about 2 years now, I think. (It just didn't occur to me to post my question on WordReference until now. I just started posting again after a 6 year hiatus away from the site.)

At any rate, どうもありがとうございますよ! in advance.

1) I want to convey: "What I want to do is X." This is what I came up with: 何を爲たい事はXです。「なに・を・したい・こと・わ・えくす・です」
I would like to know if that is correct or not.

2) According to "forma desiderativa -tai" (Note: "forma desiderativa" means "desiderative form" or desire form.)
"In affirmative phrases, がる IS ONLY USED IN THE GERUND." (original text: En las frases afirmativas がる, SOLO SE UTILIZA EN GERUNDIO.")
"In negative ones, however, the normal negative can be used as well as the gerund." (original text: En las negativas, sin embargo, se puede usar tanto en su forma negativa nosmal[sic] como en gerundio.")
[Note: On the webpage itself, 'nosmal' is a typo for 'normal'.]

The examples used:
"...したがっています - shitagatte imasu - creo que quiere hacer ..." (I think X wants to do.)
"... 欲しがっています - hoshigatte imasu - creo que quiere ..." (I think X wants.)
I just want to know if this is true or not.

Also on that same page:
"But, there's a verb form to refer to what the rest want or want to do that's used in books, not in everyday speech." (Original text: Pero hay una forma verbal para referirse a lo que quieren o quieren hacer los demás que se utiliza en los libros, no en el habla coloquial.)
How true is this?

3) According to "知りたい - shiritai - quiero saber" (I want to know.)
Pedoro wa nihon ni ikitai no (desu ka)?
¿Quiere Pedro ir a Japón? " (Does Peter want to go to Japan?)

So, that wraps up my extra questions. In short, is what I came up with accurate? (何を爲たい事はXです。) [I'm aware that 爲る is normally する. I just like using kanji where I can.]

As for the other examples from "", is がる really not used and if so, is "たいの" used for questions instead of "がるか" or even "がるの" in everyday speech?

Thank you very much again, hopefully this can all be cleared up.
Last edited:
  • frequency

    Senior Member
    Yes, good.

    If you do reverse-engineering for したがる, it is
    (い drops off)
    ほしい+がる ほしがる (ほしい is keiyōshi)
    Therefore it already has the expression of desire by including たい.
    Then what is がる?がる

    It has the nuance of observing how it is. If you say 彼女は欲しがっています。, you've seen or assumed that she wanted something.
    Therefore, Yes I think you can say
    I think X wants.
    You know in English we don't have the equivalent device that can mean がる.
    "ペドロは日本に行きたいの?vs ペドロは日本に行きたがっているの?
    The first one can be a direct question for Peter. You and Peter.
    In the second one, がる is used. So it is a less direct question than the other because it includes your observation. This is valid when you ask somebody if Peter is so or not. There's one more person.

    This is complicated. For example,
    1) You ask me frequency if Peter is so: the first and second are both okay.
    2) You ask Peter it directly: the first one is fine, but the second isn't.

    Is my post answering your all questions?

    "But, there's a verb form to refer to what the rest want or want to do that's used in books, not in everyday speech."
    Dr Fumblesは日本語を勉強したがっています。夕飯を弁当にしたがるのはFrequencyです。
    They're usual and everyday speeches. The second one isn't much different from 夕飯を弁当にしたいのはFrequencyです。

    Well, say したいことはXです。

    Dr. Fumbles

    Senior Member
    English - US
    The answer that frequency gave is fine. However, I realise I should've just asked a short question.

    Are the following statements possible in Japanese:
    Note, I realised that in English, it would be more common to ask "What do you want to eat?". Whereas, it's comparatively rare to say "You want to eat."
    This is very similar to Japanese. I'm not looking for what is common, I just want to make sure that I understand the grammar. I also just want to know if these are even grammatically possible sentences.

    I apologise for my long question. Frequency did help answer a few burning questions though.
    However, I probably should've just kept my question short like this.
    So, any help is appreciated.
    Last edited:


    Senior Member
    I guess you want to know if these are idiomatic or not. All examples in your #3 are grammatically correct. No flaw. But as you know they sound like examples in a textbook.:D "You want to eat" is grammatically correct, but it's very rare in everyday conversation. That's what you're talking about.

    Say: 私はXXが食べたい。私たちはXXが食べたい。
    You've selected XX among some or many.
    The focus is the food you want to eat. They're both okay, but I think the first one (が) is popular.

    This is the most problematic: あなた(たち)はXXが食べたい。
    You sound like you've selected any food for あなた. This is the weirdness in this example.
    Say あなた(たち)はXXが食べたいのね。You're making sure.
    If you say あなた(たち)はXXが食べたいのね? Making sure 50% and asking 50%.

    Say 彼/彼女/あの人はXXを食べたがっている。He or she is doing so now.
    If you say 彼/彼女/あの人はXXを食べたがる。, this would be taken as his or her habitual action.
    Well, for example, 日本人は冬になると鍋を食べたがる。
    I think the first one is what you want to know. You can use あの人たち, too.

    You're talking to yourself. Possible in the right context, and not often.
    Fine, but not polite. Instead, try: あなた(たち)はXXが食べたいですか? You can omit あなた(たち)は: XXが食べたいですか?

    Present action, as shown in affirmative ones. You're just asking if I know that he or she's doing so.

    You're asking someone. Idiomatic question.
    彼/彼女/あの人はXXを食べたがるか?This is also problematic.
    For example, you want to give him or her a gift. You want to select food XX.
    1) Question. The same as the above. 2) You wonder if he or she (positively) wants to eat it. This is the same as 彼/彼女/あの人はXXを食べたがるだろうか?

    Of course come back to this thread anytime if you have questions.

    Dr. Fumbles

    Senior Member
    English - US
    I guess you want to know if these are idiomatic or not....
    Frequency, you are too kind.

    That cleared up a lot. When I learn any language, I just want to be thorough.

    Thanks again.

    PS (for anyone that sees this)
    Sometimes I write normally in modern Japanese:
    However, in examples like the ones I used here, I will use kanji to break up the words and make the sentence easier to parse:

    I just wanted to clear that up for anyone wondering why I chose "私達" over "私たち".
    Last edited:

    Dr. Fumbles

    Senior Member
    English - US
    You're talking to yourself. Possible in the right context, and not often.
    One last question on this, frequencyさん。
    This occurred to me the other day.
    I think I know one way you would say "We want".
    Our company would humbly desire this proposal. (Non-literal translation; I translated to match the mood of Japanese.)
    (Note, right now I'm working on understanding the structure of Japanese. I will work on my keigo later on. I think I constructed the humble or sonkeigo form correctly.)


    Senior Member
    You're welcome.
    Yes, it has a correct grammatical structure.

    Well, who 望む? It's you/your company. So you don't need to use お there. You're using politeness for yourself.
    Say このプロポーズを望みます。

    You mention other person's action or behaviour using politeness, and then you need お. For example, 山田さんはそれをお望みです。The person who hopes is Yamada san, not you. So you need お.
    And sorry for nitpicking, but 我が株式会社 means "my company". So say 私たち, 私たちXX社は、or 弊社. If you're talking with your customer, 弊社 would be the most common, in business Japanese. As for your "our company", we have many variations which differ depending on what you want to say, unfortunately. This annoys us, too.

    Dr. Fumbles

    Senior Member
    English - US
    You're welcome.
    Thanks again, frequency.
    (I noticed you used 「~が食べたい」 and I remembered that ~たい is an adjective. I don't know how I forgot that.)

    Based on everything that I've learned from my sources and your answers, the normal "want" in Japanese is:

    Everything else is grammatical but would be very rare like saying "You want to eat." in English.

    Also, since you reminded me that ~たい is an adjective, this is all starting to make much more sense now. Thanks again.


    Senior Member
    A few days ago I realized myself saying "今日はカレーを食べたい。" I used を. Well, my theme emerged before this statement must have been "What food?", not selecting any one among other possibilities. For example, let's consider my possibilities were McDonald's, curry and rice, and ramen noodle, and I selected curry. Then I would have said 今日はカレーが食べたい。This is not a major problem, and you know either one is okay. And coincidentally I got your question. And yes, が is preferred when you use たい.

    Sometimes I write normally in modern Japanese:
    Yes, hiragana たち has become more popular, but you can also use 達 without awkwardness.
    < Previous | Next >