Grammar

How To Say “I Want To” In Japanese: Using “tai” たい

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Today I’m going to teach you something super useful: how to say “I want to <do something>”  in Japanese.

How To Say “I Want To ” In Japanese

If you’ve followed along with the Absolute Beginners series, you already know how to say:

  • I’ve been to
  • I’ve never been to

Well, if you’ve “never been to” Japan, you probably want to know how to say “I want to go to Japan”.

This is actually pretty easy to say.

The conjugation is almost the same as the “masu” form.

So, let’s make the masu-form conjugation for “to go” first:

行く・いく (to go) —> 行きます (to go – formally)

To say “I want to go”, instead of masu, you put tai たい

行く・いく (to go) —> 行きます (to go – formally) ―> 行きたい (want to go)

Did you notice that たい has い at the end?

This makes たい an i-adjective like かわいい (cute), あつい (hot), and ねむい (sleepy).

So to make たい formal, you just put です at the end, like you would with i-adjectives.

行きたいです = this is how to say “want to go” formally in Japanese.

Recap:

行きたい = I want to go (informally)

行きたいです = I want to go (formally)

So how do we say “I want to go to Japan”?

日本に行きたい。

にほんにいきたい。

(Lit.) Japan to wanna go.

I want to go to Japan.

And formally:

日本に行きたいです。

にほんにいきたいです。

Do you remember how to say “I’ve never been to Japan”? (If not, check this video)

First we need to get the informal past tense. So first we change いく into the て form so いく becomes いって (Go).

Then we change て into た = いった (went).

Then we use the following formula for how to say we have/have not done something before:

た (past tense inf.) + こと (が) ある /  あることがあります

Have done ~ before

た (past tense inf.) + こと (が) ない /  あることがありません

Have done ~ before

So, to say “I have never been” in Japanese, we say:

行ったこと(が)ない

いったこと(が)ない

I’ve never been

If you want to sound really informal, drop the が particle: 行ったことない。

日本(に)行ったこと(が)ない

にほん(に)いったこと(が)ない

I’ve never been to Japan

If you want to sound super informal, drop the に and が particles: 日本行ったことない

Now how do we say “I’ve never been to Japan. But I want to go”?

Remember, “but” = でも and “want to go” = 行きたい

The whole sentence would be:

日本(に)行ったこと(が)ない。でも、(日本)行きたい。

Saying “I haven’t been” formally goes like this:

行ったことがありません

Remember to put the particles back in when speaking formally!

So let’s try the same sentence as above but formally:

日本に行ったことがありません。でも行きたいです。

にほんにいったことがありません。でもいきたいです。

I’ve never been to Japan. But I want to go.

Let’s try this with a different verb: 帰る・かえる (to go home)

This is an exception verb. It has “eru” at the end but we don’t change it like other “iru/eru” ending verbs. We change かえる like one of the “other” verbs. So we change る into り:

帰る   ―> 帰り + ます / たい

かえる ―> かえり + ます / たい

I want to go home (informally) = 帰りたい・かえりたい

I want to go home (formally) = 帰りたいです・かえりたいです

Let’s learn now how to say “I want to rest” in Japanese.

To rest/take a day off = 休む・やすむ

If you say 休み・やすみ  – that’s the noun version to mean holiday/rest/day-off.

休む・やすむ  ―>  休みたい・やすみたい (want to rest/want to take a day off – informally)

休む・やすむ  ―>  休みたいです・やすみたいです (want to rest/want to take a day off – formally)

To say “take a day off from work” in Japanese, it’s this:

仕事を休む

しごとをやすむ

To say “take a day off from school” in Japanese, it’s this:

学校を休む

がっこうをやすむ

So, to say “I want a day off from work/I don’t want to go to work” we would say it like this:

仕事を休みたい

しごとをやすみたい

What about “I want to talk in Japanese?”

Or “I want to speak in Japanese?”

For “to talk Japanese” you can say this:

日本語を話す

にほごをはなす

But you can also say this:

日本語で話す

にほごではなす

This is more like “I want to talk IN Japanese”

So “I want to talk in Japanese” is:

日本語で話したい

にほんごではなしたい

話す・はなす (to speak) ―>  話したい・はなしたい (want to speak)

What about how to say “I want to sleep/go to sleep” in Japanese?

Sleep = 寝る・ねる

For the masu form, you just change the “ru” into “masu” = 寝ます・ねます

I want to sleep = 寝たい・ねたい

I want to sleep more = もっと寝たい

I want to sleep on a Japanese futon = ふとんで寝たい

What about “I want to watch TV”?

Watch = 見る・みる

Then, just like with ねる you change the “ru” into “tai”

Want to watch = みたい

To watch TV

テレビを見る

てれびをみる

You could say テレビを見たい・テレビを見たいです

But (because Japanese is tricky), most of the time, when watching something, we change the を particle into が

テレビが見たい

I want to watch TV

アニメが見たい

I want to watch anime

映画が見たい

えいががみたい

I want to watch a movie

It’s not wrong to use を but it’s less natural so try to remember to use が in this instance. Or if you want to be super natural when speaking informally, just get rid of the particle completely:

テレビ見たい

This same peculiarity is true for many other verbs.

For example, you normally say <something> を食べる in order to say “eat something”.

But if you want to say “I want to eat”, you change the を to が:

<Something> が食べたい

<Something> がたべたい

I want to eat sushi = すしが食べたい(です)

More informally/naturally = すし食べたい

More examples:

飲む・のむ (to drink )  ―> 飲みます (to drink – formally) ―> 飲みたい (want to drink)

I want to drink tea

お茶が飲みたい

おちゃがのみたい

Or in natural informal speech: お茶飲みたい・おちゃのみたい

One more example:

読む・よむ (to read)  ―> 読みたい (want to read)

I want to read manga = 漫画が読みたい・まんががよみたい

I want to read manga in Japanese

日本語で漫画が読みたい。

にほんごでまんががよみたい。

Now you can say “I want to do <something>” in Japanese!

Misa
Translator / Linguist / Japanese Teacher / Happy World Traveler/ manga, anime, comedy lover. Speaks Japanese, English, Russian and German.