Jul 15, 2008

我要 (wo3 yao4) and 我想 (wo3 xiang3)

‘我要吃饭。’ (wo3 yao4 chi1 fan4)
I'm gonna eat.
밥을 먹으래요.

‘我想吃饭。’(wo3 xiang3 chi1 fan4)
I feel like eating.
밥을 먹고 싶어요.

I guess this is quite a common and minor mistake made by even the Chinese ourselves. But I would still like to blog about it anyway.

The meaning of both sentences are very similar. However, they are not. Let's take a look at some examples.

(In the office)

A: 我要吃饭。
B: 哦,去吃吧。
A: I'm going to eat.
B: Oh, go eat then.
A: 밥을 먹으래.
B: 그럼 먹어 가.

Notice how the conversation kinda ends here by B? That's because when we say 我要吃饭,it would probably mean "I'm going to eat" to the person we're talking to.

"要" (yao4) is a word with double meanings to it. It can mean "I want .." or "I'm gonna ..". It can be sound quite rude at times too, especially when used in a question.

"要不要吃饭?" would sound like "Are you going to eat or not?" and it might offend some people, especially me. I often reply with "Yes, but not now". Haha.

But this can be improved by adding some words to it and changing it into "要不要和我一起 (together with me) 吃饭?" which means "Wanna go eat with me?". Now, it is a suggestion! :)

"想" (xiang3), however, would sound much more pleasant.

Let's take a look at "想" now.

(In the office)

A: 我想吃饭。
B: 是吗?我也想吃。我们一起吃饭去吧。
A: I feel like eating.
B: Oh really? Me too. Let's go eat.
A: 밥을 먹고 싶어.
B: 그래? 나도 먹고 싶어. 그럼 같이 밥 먹자.

Notice that this time, a suggestion is made by B. That's because A said "我想吃饭" which means "I feel like eating".

"想" will also sound very much more pleasant than "要" when in a question.

"想不想吃饭?" would mean "Do you feel like eating?" and this would often be responded with a kind suggestion about dining together.

But if you add the words mentioned in one of the earlier sentences above and alter the sentence to "想不想和我一起吃饭?", it sounds kinda scary like a pick-up line because it would mean something like "Thinking of eating with me?". Haha!

It might seem like using '要' is altogether a bad thing. But no, I'm not saying that using '要' is all wrong. When you're really going to do something, please always use '要'. Otherwise the other party will ask you to do it together, which will make you seem even more rude when you turn down their suggestion!

Confusing? Not really! I'll sum it all up.

"要" carries the meaning of an intention to do something. It is used when you are going to do something.

"想" means that you're only thinking of doing something. It is used when you feel like doing it but you might not because of a certain reason.

I hope this kinda is useful.


maxiewawa said...

this is a great explanation. Can I use it in one of my Chinese lessons?

Theresa said...

Of course! I'm glad it helps!