Avoid this Mistake when Using Yao...

要 (yào: want) is everywhere if you pay closely attention to daily conversations. The thing is…do you really know what it means or do you simply translate it into “want” whenever you hear it?

the difference between 要 and 想 (xiǎng: want)

When applied to the  想/要 + v + o structure 想 and 要 could both mean “want”

For example

  • 我想去中国学习汉语。  wǒ xiǎng qù Zhōng Guó xué xí hàn yǔ 。
  • 我要去中国学习汉语。  wǒ yào qù Zhōng Guó xué xí hàn yǔ 。

Both of theses sentences mean “I want to go to China and study Chinese.” However using 想 is more like a wish or a thought, while 要 shows the determination to make it happen. For example, 我想去中国学习汉语 could be someone in the U.S. trying to impress a girl. 我要去中国学习汉语 is someone who has already booked the tickets and planed everything out.  

Bearing this in mind, you can understand the following conversation much better:

A: 你们假期去哪里玩?(nǐ men jià qī qù nǎ lǐ wán?)

B: 我要去苏州,打算玩三天。(wǒ yào qù Sūzhōu, dǎ suàn wán sān tiān)

C: 我也想去苏州,但是我的女朋友要去北京。(wǒ yě xiǎng qù Sūzhōu, dàn shì wǒ de nǚ péng yǒu yào qù Běijīng)

A: 都不错啊!可是我要加班。(dōu bú cuò ā !kě shì wǒ yào jiā bān)


A: Where are you going on the holiday?

B: I want to go to Suzhou. I plan to stay for 3 days.

C: I want to go to Suzhou, too. But my girlfriend want to go to Beijing. (which means they are going to Beijing)

A: Both sound great! But I need (???) to work for extra hours.

Need? But doesnt 要 mean want?

the other meaning of 要

The meaning of 要 sways from one to the other. Sometimes it means “want” and sometimes it means “need”. The first meaning is “want” like what was mentioned before. To make it more clear, 想要 (xiǎng yào: want), emphasizes desire with 想. The other meaning is 需要 (xū yào: need), which emphasizes need with 需 (xū: need). That is why the last part in the conversation above 我要加班 does not mean “I want to work extra hours”. Instead, it means “I need to work extra hours”.  More examples:

  • 孩子:妈妈,这个周末我想去迪士尼。
    • hái zi: mā ma ,zhè ge zhōu mò wǒ xiǎng qù dí shì ní 。
  • 妈妈:不行,我要加班。我们下个月去,好不好?  (I need to…)
    • mā ma: bù xíng ,wǒ yào jiā bān 。wǒ men xià ge yuè qù ,hǎo bù hǎo ?
  • 孩子:不好不好!我要这个周末去!我要去! 我要去!   (I want to!)
    • hái zi: bù hǎo bù hǎo !wǒ yào zhè ge zhōu mò qù !wǒ yào qù ! wǒ yào qù !

Never go easy learning phrasing when learning Chinese!

Zhang Yan, is the newest member of the GoEast Team. She is passionate about teaching Chinese as a second language and takes great interests in Chinese and western cultures. Especially Western TV shows!