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Comparing “要” and “想” in Chinese

want in Chinese, Chinese words, learning Chinese

Both 要 (yào) and 想 (xiǎng) can mean "want," but they're used in slightly different ways, such as 想 (xiǎng) meaning "to miss" when followed by a noun, and 要 (yào) also meaning "going to (do something)".



Followed by a Noun


Both 要 (yào) and 想 (xiǎng) can be followed by nouns, but their meanings are different, because the meaning of 想 (xiǎng) changes when used this way.



要 as "to want" "要"作为"to want"


This structure is most often used to buy something, or to order food as a restaurant. It also can be used for a child to get stuff from his parents.



Subject + 要 + Noun 主语+要+名词



wǒ yào yī gè sānmíngzhì.

I want a sandwich.



wǒ yào yī bēi shuǐ.

I want a glass of water.


想 as "to miss" "想"作为"to miss"


Pay attention here: unlike "想 + Verb," the meaning of 想 in the "想 + Noun" pattern becomes "to miss."



Subject + 想 + Noun 主语+想+名词



I miss my mom.



I miss my little dog.



I miss you.


Followed by a Verb


Both 要 (yào) and 想 (xiǎng) can be followed by verbs with similar meanings. The difference between the two is rather subtle, but 要 (yào) can sound more urgent, while 想 (xiǎng) is usually a bit more polite. Tone of voice plays a big role here as well, so don't be afraid of offending people by using 要 (yào); the word itself isn't rude.



It might help to think of 要 (yào) in this structure as meaning "want to" and 想 (xiǎng) as meaning "would like to."

在此结构中,将"要"的"want to"和"想"的含义看作为"would like to"或许有所帮助。


要 as "want to" "要"作为"want to"


Subject + 要 + Verb 主语+要+动词



I want to go.



I wanna go! I wanna go!



I want to eat a sandwich.



I want to drink juice.



I want to buy fruit.



I want it! I want it!


想 as "would like to" "想"作为"would like to"


Subject + 想 + Verb 主语+想+动词



I'd like to go.



I'd like to see her.



I'd like to drink juice.



I'd like to buy fruit.



I'd like to eat a sandwich.


要 as "going to" "要"作为"going to"


要 is used to indicate plans for the near future, much like "going to" in English. 想 (xiǎng) is not used in this way.

"要"可用于表示不久将来的计划,很像英文里的"going to"。"想"不能用于这样的方式。


Subject + 要 + Verb 主语+要+动词



I'm going to Beijing on Saturday.



This year I'm going to learn Chinese.



After getting off work, we're going to go to karaoke.


想要 as "want" "想要"作为"want"


You can put 要 (yào) and 想 (xiǎng) together to make the word 想要 (xiǎngyào), which means "to want" or "want". You can put either nouns or verbs after it.

你可以将"要"和"想"放在一起组合成"想要",意思是"to want"或"want"。你可以在它之后跟上名词或者动词。


Subject + 想要 + Verb 主语+想要+动词



I want to eat a sandwich.



I want to drink juice.



I want to buy fruit.



I want a new computer.


These conversations use 想 and 要 in various ways described above:



A: 你要什么?

What do you want?

B: 我要一杯红茶。我还想要一杯牛奶。

I want a cup of black tea. I also want a glass of milk.

A: 你想家吗?

Are you homesick?

B: 我想家。我很想我爸妈。

Yeah, I'm homesick. I really miss my parents.

A: 你想回去吗?

Would you like to go back?

B: 我想回去。下个月我要回家。

Yeah, I would. I'm going back next month.

Translated from: allsetlearning

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