LearnJapanese Tae Kim's Guide to Learning Japanese





Desire and Suggestions

Posted by Tae Kim

How to get your way in Japan

We will now learn how to say what you want either by just coming out and saying it or by making discreet suggestions. The major topics we will cover will be the 「たい」 conjugation and the volitional form. We will also learn specialized uses of the 「たら」 and 「ば」 conditionals to offer advice.

Verbs you want to do with 「たい」

Vocabulary

  1. 行く 【い・く】 (u-verb) - to go
  2. 何 【なに】 - what
  3. する (exception) - to do
  4. 温泉 【おん・せん】 - hotspring
  5. ケーキ - cake
  6. 食べる 【た・べる】 (ru-verb) - to eat
  7. ずっと - long; far
  8. 一緒 【いっ・しょ】 - together
  9. いる (ru-verb) - to exist (animate)
  10. 犬 【いぬ】 - dog
  11. 遊ぶ 【あそ・ぶ】 (u-verb) - to play

You can express verbs that you want to perform with the 「たい」 form. All you need to do is add 「たい」 to the stem of the verb. However, unlike most conjugations we learned where the verb turns into a ru-verb, this form actually transforms the verb into an i-adjective (notice how 「たい」 conveniently ends in 「い」). This makes sense because the conjugated form is a description of something that you want to do. Once you have the 「たい」 form, you can then conjugate it the same as you would any other i-adjective. However, the 「たい」 form is different from regular i-adjectives because it is derived from a verb. This means that all the particles we normally associate with verbs such as 「を」、「に」、「へ」、or 「で」 can all be used with the 「たい」 form, which is not true for regular i-adjectives. Here's a chart just for you.

「たい」 conjugations
Positive Negative
Non-Past 行きたい 行きたくない
Past 行きたかった 行きたくなかった

Examples

  1. したいですか。
    What do you want to do?
  2. 温泉行きたい
    I want to go to hot spring.
  3. ケーキ食べたくないの?
    You don't want to eat cake?
  4. 食べたくなかったけど食べたくなった
    I didn't want to eat it but I became wanting to eat.

Example 4 was very awkward to translate but is quite simple in Japanese if you refer to the section about using 「なる」 with i-adjectives". The past tense of the verb 「なる」 was used to create "became want to eat". Here's a tongue twister using the negative 「~たくない」 and past-tense of 「なる」: 「食べたくなくなった」 meaning "became not wanting to eat".

This may seem obvious but 「ある」 cannot have a 「たい」 form because inanimate objects cannot want anything. However, 「いる」 can be used with the 「たい」 form in examples like the one below.

  • ずっと一緒いたい
    I want to be together forever. (lit: Want to exist together for long time.)

Also, you can only use the 「たい」 form for the first-person because you cannot read other people's mind to see what they want to do. For referring to anyone beside yourself, it is normal to use expressions such as, "I think he wants to..." or "She said that she wants to..." We will learn how to say such expressions in a later lesson. Of course, if you're asking a question, you can just use the 「たい」 form because you're not presuming to know anything.

  • 遊びたいですか。
    Do you want to play with dog?

Indicating things you want or want done using 「欲しい

Vocabulary

  1. 欲しい 【ほ・しい】 (i-adj) - wanted; desirable
  2. 好き 【す・き】 (na-adj) - likable; desirable
  3. 大きい 【おお・きい】(i-adj) - big
  4. 縫いぐるみ 【ぬ・いぐるみ】 - stuffed doll
  5. 全部 【ぜん・ぶ】 - everything
  6. 食べる 【た・べる】 (ru-verb) - to eat
  7. 部屋 【へ・や】 - room
  8. きれい (na-adj) - pretty; clean

In English, we employ a verb to say that we want something. In Japanese, "to want" is actually an i-adjective and not a verb. We saw something similar with 「好き」 which is an adjective while "to like" in English is a verb. While I didn't get too much into the workings of 「好き」, I have dedicated a whole section to 「欲しい」 because it means, "to want something done" when combined with the te-form of a verb. We will learn a more polite and appropriate way to make requests in the "Making Requests" lesson instead of saying, "I want this done."

Though not a set rule, whenever words come attached to the te-form of a verb to serve a special grammatical function, it is customary to write it in hiragana. This is because kanji is already used for the verb and the attached word becomes part of that verb.

Examples

  1. 大きい縫いぐるみ欲しい
    I want a big stuffed doll!
  2. 全部食べてほしいんだけど・・・。
    I want it all eaten but...
  3. 部屋きれいしてほしいのよ。
    It is that I want the room cleaned up, you know.

Like I mentioned, there are more appropriate ways to ask for things which we won't go into until later. This grammar is not used too often but is included for completeness.

Making a motion to do something using the volitional form (casual)

Vocabulary

  1. 食べる 【た・べる】 (ru-verb) - to eat
  2. 入る 【はい・る】 (u-verb) - to enter
  3. 着る 【き・る】 (ru-verb) - to wear
  4. 信じる 【しん・じる】 (ru-verb) - to believe
  5. 寝る 【ね・る】 (ru-verb) - to sleep
  6. 起きる 【お・きる】 (ru-verb) - to wake; to occur
  7. 出る 【で・る】 (ru-verb) - to come out
  8. 掛ける 【か・ける】 (ru-verb) - to hang
  9. 捨てる 【す・てる】 (ru-verb) - to throw away
  10. 調べる 【しら・べる】 (ru-verb) - to investigate
  11. 話す 【はな・す】 (u-verb) - to speak
  12. 書く 【か・く】 (u-verb) - to write
  13. 待つ 【ま・つ】 (u-verb) - to wait
  14. 飲む 【の・む】 (u-verb) - to drink
  15. 取る 【と・る】 (u-verb) - to take
  16. 聞く 【き・く】 (u-verb) - to ask; to listen
  17. 泳ぐ 【およ・ぐ】 (u-verb) - to swim
  18. 遊ぶ 【あそ・ぶ】 (u-verb) - to play
  19. 直る 【なお・る】 (u-verb) - to be fixed
  20. 死ぬ 【し・ぬ】 (u-verb) - to die
  21. 買う 【か・う】 (u-verb) - to buy
  22. する (exception) - to do
  23. 来る 【く・る】 (exception) - to come
  24. 今日 【きょう】 - today
  25. 何 【なに】 - what
  26. テーマパーク - theme park
  27. 行く 【い・く】 (u-verb) - to go
  28. 明日 【あした】 - tomorrow
  29. カレー - curry

The term volitional here means a will to do something. In other words, the volitional form indicates that someone is setting out to do something. In the most common example, this simply translates into the English "let's" or "shall we?" but we'll also see how this form can be used to express an effort to do something in a lesson further along.

To conjugate verbs into the volitional form for casual speech, there are two different rules for ru-verbs and u-verbs. For ru-verbs, you simply remove the 「る」 and add 「よう」. For u-verbs, you replace the / u / vowel sound with the / o / vowel sound and add 「う」.

Conjugations rules for the casual volitional form
  • For ru-verbs: Remove the 「る」 and add 「よう」
    Example: 食べ食べ + よう食べよう
  • For u-verbs: Replace the / u / vowel sound with the / o / vowel sound and add 「う」
    Example: + 入ろう

Here is a list of verbs you should be used to seeing by now.

Sample ru-verbs
Plain Volitional
食べ 食べよう
よう
信じ 信じよう
よう
起き 起きよう
よう
掛け 掛けよう
捨て 捨てよう
調べ 調べよう
    
Sample u-verbs
Plain Volitional
そう
こう
ごう
ぼう
とう
もう
ろう
のう
おう
    
Exception Verbs
Plain Volitional
する しよう
くる こよう

Examples

I doubt you will ever use 「死のう」 (let's die) but I left it in for completeness. Here are some more realistic examples.

  1. 今日しようか?
    What shall (we) do today?
  2. テーマパーク行こう
    Let's go to theme park!
  3. 明日食べようか?
    What shall (we) eat tomorrow?
  4. カレー食べよう
    Let's eat curry!

Remember, since you're setting out to do something, it doesn't make sense to have this verb in the past tense. Therefore, there is only one tense and if you were to replace 「明日」 in the third example with, let's say, 「昨日」 then the sentence would make no sense.

Making a motion to do something using the volitional form (polite)

Vocabulary

  1. 食べる 【た・べる】 (ru-verb) - to eat
  2. 入る 【はい・る】 (u-verb) - to enter
  3. する (exception) - to do
  4. 来る 【く・る】 (exception) - to come
  5. 寝る 【ね・る】 (ru-verb) - to sleep
  6. 行く 【い・く】 (u-verb) - to go
  7. 遊ぶ 【あそ・ぶ】 (u-verb) - to play
  8. 今日 【きょう】 - today
  9. 何 【なに】 - what
  10. テーマパーク - theme park
  11. 明日 【あした】 - tomorrow
  12. カレー - curry

The conjugation for the polite form is even simpler. All you have to do is add 「~ましょう」 to the stem of the verb. Similar to the masu-form, verbs in this form must always come at the end of the sentence. In fact, all polite endings must always come at the end and nowhere else as we've already seen.

Conjugations rules for the polite volitional form
  • For all verbs: Add 「~ましょう」 to the stem of the verb
    1. 食べ食べ + ましょう食べましょう
    2. + ましょう入りましょう

Sample verbs
Plain Volitional
する ましょう
くる ましょう
寝る ましょう
行く 行きましょう
遊ぶ 遊びましょう

Examples

Again, there's nothing new here, just the polite version of the volitional form.

  1. 今日しましょうか?
    What shall (we) do today?
  2. テーマパーク行きましょう
    Let's go to theme park!
  3. 明日食べましょうか?
    What shall (we) eat tomorrow?
  4. カレー食べましょう
    Let's eat curry!

Making Suggestions using the 「ば」 or 「たら」 conditional

Vocabulary

  1. 銀行 【ぎん・こう】 - bank
  2. 行く 【い・く】 (u-verb) - to go
  3. たまに - once in a while
  4. 両親【りょう・しん】 - parents
  5. 話す 【はな・す】 (u-verb) - to speak

You can make suggestions by using the 「ば」 or 「たら」 conditional and adding 「どう」. This literally means, "If you do [X], how is it?" In English, this would become, "How about doing [X]?" Grammatically, there's nothing new here but it is a commonly used set phrase.

Examples

  1. 銀行行ったらどうですか。
    How about going to bank?
  2. たまに両親話せばどう
    How about talking with your parents once in a while?