Tuesday, October 30, 2018

ほしい vs. たい

A question people often have about hoshi 欲しい, or rather, hoshii ほしい, an auxiliary adjective that means "want" in Japanese, is: what's the difference between hoshii and tai たい, another auxiliary which also means "want" in Japanese?

Difference in Usage

Well, the difference is simple: -tai ~たい defaults to saying "I want to do" while hoshii ほしい defaults to "I want you to do." For example:
  • shinitai 死にたい
    [I] want to die.
  • shinde hoshii 死んでほしい
    I want [you] to die.

Another example:
  • koroshitai 殺したい
    [I] want to kill [someone].
  • korosaretai 殺されたい
    [I] want to be killed [by someone].
  • koroshite hoshii 殺してほしい
    [I] want [you] to kill [me].
    [I] want [you] to kill [someone].
    [I] want [someone] to kill [someone else].
  • nigetai 逃げたい
    [I] want to run away.
    [I] want to escape.
  • nigete hoshii 逃げてほしい
    [I] want [you] to run away.
    [I] want [you] to escape.

Some less edgy examples:
  • oshietai 教えたい
    [I] want to teach.
  • oshiete hoshii 教えてほしい
    [I] want [you] to teach [me].
  • yomitai 読みたい
    [I] want to read.
  • yonde hoshii 呼んでほしい
    [I] want [you] to read [something] [for me].
  • akirametai 諦めたい
    [I] want to give up.
  • akiramete hoshii 諦めてほしい
    [I] want [you] to give up.

Another big difference is that, because -tai ~たい is always attached to verbs, only hoshii 欲しい can be used to say you want a noun.
  • keeki ga hoshii ケーキが欲しい
    Cake is wanted.
    I want cake.
  • *keeki ga tai ケーキがたい
    (this is wrong.)

Moraitai もらいたい

Note that, in many cases, hoshii is practically synonymous with the verb morau もらう plus -tai, that is, moraitai もらいたい. See:
  • tsukuru 作る
    To build. To make.
  • tsukuritai 作りたい
    [I] want to build [something].
  • tsukutte morau 作ってもらう
    To have [you] build [something] [for me].
    To have [someone] build [something].
  • tsukutte moraitai 作ってもらいたい
    [I] want to have [you] build [something] [for me]
    [I] want to have [someone] build [something].
  • tsukutte hoshii 作ってほしい
    [I] want [you] to build [something] [for me]
    [I] want [someone] to build [something].


Lastly, as you may have already noticed, hoshii is added to the te-form of verbs, while -tai ~たい suffixes the connective form, the ren'youkei 連用形.


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  1. Great article! May I add that there's another difference, which is may be too obvious for someone but... Anyway. -tai form of a verb is form of a verb. Which means that we use it to say that we want to DO something. While hoshii being an adjective could be applied to another words, like nouns (kono boushi ga hoshii! - [I] want this hat!)

    1. You're right. I've added a mention about it to the article, thanks.