Skip to main content
Humanities LibreTexts

6.9: Lesson 5 Grammar - Wanting to do something with 要 (yào)

  • Page ID
    65660
  • The auxiliary verb 要 (yào) has several different meanings, and here we'll tackle the "want to" meaning. To express "wanting to do" something, use 要 (yào) before the verb.

    Structure 

    The verb 要 (yào) can be used as an auxiliary verb to indicate wanting to do something.

         Subj. + 要 + Verb + Obj.

    Examples 

    • 他要学中文。
      Tā yào xué Zhōngwén.
      He wants to study Chinese.
       
    • 宝宝要睡觉。
      Bǎobao yào shuìjiào.
      The baby wants to sleep.
       
    • 早饭我要吃肉。
      Zǎofàn wǒ yào chī ròu.
      For breakfast I want to eat meat.
       
    • 今天很累,我要休息。
      Jīntiān hěn lèi, wǒ yào xiūxi.
      Today I'm very tired. I want to rest.
       
    • 这个周末你们要做什么?
      Zhège zhōumò nǐmen yào zuò shénme?
      This weekend what do you want to do?

    要 (yào) and 想 (xiǎng) 

    Instead of using 要 (yào), it is also possible to use the word 想 (xiǎng). These two words are largely interchangeable, and both can mean "to want." The small difference is that 要 (yào) is often used for something you want to or need to do, and plan to take action on. It can sound a bit more demanding (and less polite). 想 (xiǎng) on the other hand, often conveys an idea on one's mind, that one may or may not take action on. You can think of it as meaning "would like to."

    Examples 

    • 我要喝咖啡。 
      Wǒ yào hē kāfēi.
      I want to drink coffee.
      [I am going to get my hands on some coffee.]
       
    • 我想喝咖啡。 
      Wǒ xiǎng hē kāfēi.
      I'd like to drink coffee.
      [I want to drink a cup of coffee, but may or may not act on that.]
       
    • 你要吃什么?
      Nǐ yào chī shénme?
      What do you want to eat?
       
    • 你想吃什么?
      Nǐ xiǎng chī shénme?
      What would you like to eat?

    [adapted from AllSet Learning Chinese Grammar Wiki, Creative Commons License BY-NC-SA 3.0]

         *     *     *

    Any Questions? 

    If you have any questions about this grammar point, please ask in the class forums!