Tuesday, October 30, 2018

hoshii ~ほしい, 欲しい

The word hoshii 欲しい is a weird Japanese word. If you check a dictionary, you'll see in Japanese hoshii means "wanted." But that doesn't make much sense, does it? To want is a verb, hoshii is an i-adjective. So how does that work? What's the real meaning of hoshii?

An example of ほしい used in Japanese.
Manga: School Rumble (Chapter 3)


Basically, hoshii 欲しい describes something you want to have, or that you want done. It's an adjective, after all, so it describes things.

It just happens that in English we'd use the verb "to want" in its past participle form (wanted) as an adjective for stuff we want in general. So the words we use in English and the words used in Japanese don't match in this case, and you'll be happier avoiding translating it altogether:
  • mono
    A thing. (like, any thing.)
  • hoshii mono 欲しい物
    (here, hoshii describes mono.)
    A wanted thing. (direct translation, sounds unnatural.)
    A thing [you'd] want. (adjectival clause translation with implied subject and verb "to want" instead.)

This goes both ways. When we say "wanted" in English, it isn't certain that'll become hoshii in Japanese. For example, to say "wanted criminal" in Japanese:
  • hanzaisha 犯罪者
  • hoshii hanzaisha 欲しい犯罪者
    Wanted criminal. (wrong!)
    A criminal [you] want. (like, personally. For your team, or for you to arrest yourself, or for whatever reasons you could possibly want a criminal for.)
  • shimei-tehai-jin 指名手配人
    Wanted criminal. (this is the right word.)
    Named search person. (literally.)

See? The word that means what we want to mean is completely different from hoshii! By the way, the reason for this is:
  • shimei 指名
    To name (someone to do something.) To indicate. To appoint.
  • tehai 手配
    Search (by the police for someone.)
  • shimei-tehai 指名手配
    To name [someone] the police searches for.
  • shimei-tehai-jin 指名手配人
    Person whom the police has named they're searching for, a.k.a. a "wanted" (by the police) person, a wanted criminal.

Some more examples:
  • anime-ka ga hoshii アニメ化が欲しい
    Wanted anime adaptation [of something]. (literally, anime-fication.)
    [I want] an anime adaptation [of something].
  • san-ki ga hoshii 3期が欲しい
    Wanted third season.
    [I want] a third season.


The word hoshii 欲しい can be inflected just like any other i-adjective.
  • neko ga hoshii 猫が欲しい
    Cats [are] wanted. (literal predicative adjective.)
    [I want] a cat.
  • inu wa hoshikunai 犬は欲しくない
    Dogs [are] not wanted.
    [I don't want] a dog.
  • kore ga hoshikatta これが欲しかった
    This [was] wanted.
    [I wanted] this.
  • kodomo ga hoshikunakatta 子供が欲しくなかった
    Children [were] not wanted.
    [I didn't want] children. (usually means "I didn't want to have children.")

And it can be used as a predicative adjective, like above, or as an attributive adjective, like below:
  • hoshikatta mono wo te ni ireta 欲しかった物を手に入れた
    The wanted thing entered hand. (literally.)
    The thing [I wanted] entered [my] hand. (still bad.)
    [I have gained] the thing [that I wanted.]

Auxiliary Adjective

When the adjective hoshii ほしい comes after the te-form of a verb, it stops being your normal i-adjective to become... *drum roll* ...an auxiliary adjective! Which's basically the same thing except it's weirder.

Generally speaking, verb-te-hoshii means "[I] want [you] to verb." Note that Japanese pronouns like "I" and "you" are often implicit. It could be "I want him to verb" or "he wants you to verb," etc. It depends on the context.

An example:
  • oshieru 教える
    To teach.
    To tell. (some information.)
  • oshiete hoshii 教えてほしい
    [I] want [you] to teach [me]. (something.)
    [I] want [you] to tell [me]. (something.)

To understand how this hoshii auxiliary works, first we need to understand how the te-form works. Although it's often used to connect verbs to things, if we say just the te-form, it can be understood as a command to order people around. See:
  • damaru 黙る
    To be silent.
  • damatte 黙って
    SHUT UP!!!11

So the hoshii auxiliary works by turning that command-like sentence into a wish.

For example, if we have a phrase like this:
  • nanika attara watashi ni itte 何かあったら私に言って
    If something happens tell me.

And then we remove watashi because that's implicit anyway.
  • nanika attara itte 何かあったら言って
    If something happens tell [me].

And now we add hoshii.
  • nanika attara itte hoshii 何かあったら言ってほしい
    If anything happens tell [me], IT'S WHAT I WANT.
    If anything happens, [I] want you to tell [me].

Some other examples:
  • tatakau 戦う
    To fight.
  • tatakatte 戦って
  • issho ni tatakatte hoshii 一緒に戦ってほしい
    [I] want [you] to fight alongside [me].
    • issho ni 一緒に
      Together with. Alongside.
  • yurusu 許す
    To allow. To permit. To forgive.
  • yurushite 許して
    Forgive [me].
  • yurushite hoshii 許してほしい
    [I] want [you] to forgive [me].
  • yobu 呼ぶ
    To call. (someone.)
  • shita no namae de yonde hoshii 下の名前で呼んでほしい
    [I] want [you] to call [me] by [my] first name.
    • shita no namae 下の名前
      Name of below. (literally.)
      Name below. Name under.
      First name. Given name.
      (in Japanese, the family name is written before the given name. Depending on the direction Japanese is written, it'd be family name left, given name right, or, vertically, family name above, first name below.)
  • korosu 殺す
    To kill.
  • koroshite hoshii hito ga iru 殺してほしい人がいる
    There's a person [I] want [you] to kill.
せんせー なんだ? 目が悪いので前の席と交換してほしいんですが quote from manga School Rumble (Chapter 3)
Manga: School Rumble (Chapter 3)
  • sensee
  • nanda?
    What is it?
  • me ga warui node
    mae no seki to
    koukan shite

    [I have poor eyesight] so [I] want to switch [with one of] the front seats.
    • me ga warui 目が悪い
      Eyes are bad. (literally.)
      To have poor eyesight.

Causative, Passive, Hoshii ほしい

The auxiliary hoshii can also be added after passive and causative forms of verbs.
  • yomu 読む
    To read.
  • yomareru 読まれる
    To be read.
  • yomarete 読まれて
    Be read! (this doesn't make much sense but whatever.)
  • yomarete hoshii 読まれてほしい
    [That something] be read, is what I want!
  • ooku no hito ni yomarete hoshii hon 多くの人に読まれてほしい
    A book [that I want] to be read by lots of people
  • yaru やる
    To do.
  • yaraseru やらせる
    To force [someone] to do.
    To let [someone] do.
  • yarasete やらせて
    Force [me] to do [it]. (unlikely.)
    Let [me] do [it]. (likely.)
  • yarasete hoshii やらせてほしい
    [I] want [you] to let [me] do [it].
    [I] want [you] to force [me] to do [it].

欲しい vs. ほしい

Note that there's a difference between 欲しい and ほしい, that is, between hoshii written with kanji and without kanji.

Technically, auxiliaries should be written without kanji in Japanese. This means that the hoshii after the te-form of verbs should be always written hoshii ほしい. [「~してほしい」の「欲しい」・「ほしい」について - oshiete.goo.ne.jp, 2018-10-30]

There's no similar rule about spelling for i-adjectives, so the i-adjective hoshii can be either 欲しい or ほしい.

To recap:
  • okane ga hoshii お金が欲しい
    Money [is] wanted.
    [I want] money.
    (predicative adjective)
  • hoshii mono 欲しい
    Wanted thing.
    [Something I want].
    (attributive adjective.)
  • oshiete hoshii 教えてほしい
    [I] want [you] to tell/teach [me].
    (auxiliary adjective.)

However, just because there's a rule that doesn't mean people actually care about said rule. You'll find that tons of people write shite hoshii して欲しい when they should write shite hoshii してほしい instead.


The word hoshigaru 欲しがる is another word that means "to want." Unlike hoshii, hoshigaru is a verb. See:
  • kane wo hoshigaru 金を欲しがる
    To want money.

The difference between hoshii 欲しい and hoshigaru 欲しがる is that the meaning of hoshigaru is normally closer to "covet" rather than "want."

Generally, you use hoshii for something you want, and use hoshigaru for something someone else seems to want or yearns for.
  • kodomo ga omocha wo hoshigaru 子供がおもちゃを欲しがる
    A child wants a toy.
    A child yearns for a toy.
  • geemu wo hoshigaru ゲームを欲しがる
    To want games.
    To want to possess, have, buy, play games.
    To covet games.
  • chi wo hoshigatteiru 血を欲しがっている
    [It] seems to be yearning for blood.


The word hossuru 欲する (hoshi and suru merged, see: sokuonbin 促音便) is, well, another word that means "to want." It's also a verb.

The difference this time is that hossuru 欲する isn't normally used, unlike more normal hoshigaru 欲しがる, [What's the difference between 欲ほっする and 欲しがる? - japanese.stackexchange.com, 2018-10-31], and that hossuru sounds rather archaic. [「欲する」と「欲しがる」の違いについて教えてください。 - detail.chiebukuro.yahoo.co.jp, 2018-10-31]

Furthermore, hoshigaru 欲しがる implies you seem you want something, while hossuru 欲する is directly to want something. So hossuru could be considered a degree stronger than hoshigaru.

In manga and anime, hossuru normally shows up in talks about kings and what they want to do with their kings, or legends and what the gods and demons want, etc.
  • heiwa wo hossuru 平和を欲する
    To yearn for peace.
  • hito no tamashii wo hossuru shinigami 人の魂を欲する死神
    The god of death who yearns for the souls of people.

Further Reading


No comments:

Post a Comment

Leave your komento コメント in this posuto ポスト of this burogu ブログ with your questions about Japanese, doubts or whatever!

All comments are moderated and won't show up until approved. Spam, links to illegal websites, and inappropriate content won't be published.