378 - がほしい

In basic terms, there are two ways to say "I want" in Japanese.

When talking about things we want to do, we use the verb ending ~たい... which is a topic for another lesson.

Here we'll be looking at saying "I want something." For that we need:

JLPT N5: ~が欲しい(~がほしい

欲しい
ほしい
wanted; desired; wished for

English: "I want something."
Japanese: "Something が ほしい."

Perhaps the most glaring difference between these two sentence formations is that while "want" is a verb, 欲しい is an i-adjective.

So a more direct translation of "something が ほしい" might be "something is wanted by me." Only the Japanese is much simpler.

While the concept of using adjectives in Japanese the way we use verbs in English can be a little difficult to grasp at first, it does feel totally natural in time. Specifically, it gets easier through massive exposure to high-quality examples...

わたしはシャネルのバッグがほしいです。
わたし は シャネル の バッグ が ほしい です。
I want a Chanel bag.
Literally: "I + は + Chanel + の + bag / purse + が + wanted + です."

I want a bag.
バッグがほしい

Not too complex, yeah?


What if we want to say, "I wanted something"...?

Do you know how to put an i-adjective into past tense?

ほしい = is wanted

Drop off the い and add かった...

ほしかった = was wanted

For both, we can add です to the end for formal sentences.

Example:

以前はバイクが欲しかったですが、今は車が欲しいです。
いぜん は バイク が ほしかった ですが、 いま は くるま が ほしい です。
Before I wanted a motorcycle, but now I want a car.
Literally: "before + は + motorcycle + が + was wanted + です + が (=but), + now + は + car + が + wanted + です."

See how we used the kanji for 欲しい (ほしい) here?

Both ways of writing, with and without kanji, are acceptable. Beginner-level grammar books often do not use the kanji for 欲しい (ほしい), but Japanese people use the kanji quite often. So let's learn it!


Question: Why do we put が before ほしい?

Have you read this lesson before... [NDL #328] - Basics: こ、そ、あ...?

In it, you'll see that I like to refer to が as the "pointer particle," as it "points out" a noun that we'd like to bring into focus. Books call it the "subject-marking particle," which I think is a travesty, but that's a rant for another day.

Anyways, when we are pointing something out, kind of like when we put a word in italics in English, we use が. This just barely explains why we put が right after the thing that we want: Because が puts emphasis on the word that comes directly before it (unlike は, which puts emphasis on what comes after it). Again, please read that lesson linked to above for more info.

Also, consider these two sentences:

バイク欲しいです。
バイク が ほしい です。
I want a motorcycle.
Literally: "motorcycle + が + wanted + です."

欲しいのバイクです。
ほしい の は バイク です。
What I want is a motorcycle.
Literally: "wanted + の + は + motorcycle + です."

Was that confusing? If so, just don't worry about it. You can read more about this stuff when you feel that your Japanese is at an appropriate level to do so.

Long story short: We won't always have が directly before ほしい. It just depends on the sentence.


A:
今、欲しいものはありますか。
いま、 ほしい もの は ありますか。
Is there something that you want right now?
Literally: "now, + wanted + thing + は + there is + か."

B:
そうですね。欲しいものはとくにないです。
そうですね。 ほしい もの は とくに ない です。
Right now? No, there's not really anything I want right now.
Literally: "lemme see. + wanted + thing + は + especially + there is not + です."



We've seen how to put 欲しい into past tense, but can you put it into negative form as well?

Negative present would be...
欲しい(ほしい // wanted
→ 欲しくない(ほしくない // not wanted

Negative past would be...
欲しい(ほしい // wanted
→ 欲しくなかった(ほしくなかった // was not wanted

In other words, drop the い, add く (i.e. make the adjective 欲しい into the adverb 欲しく), then add the negative to-be verb in present tense, ない, or past tense, なかった.

A:
子供の頃、兄弟が欲しかったですか。
こども の ころ、 きょうだい が ほしかった ですか。
When you were a kid, did you want brothers and sisters?
Literally: "child + の + in those days, + sibling + が + was wanted + ですか."

B:
いいえ、欲しくなかったです。
いいえ、 ほしくなかった です。
No, I didn't want any.
Literally: "no, + was not wanted + です."




Level-Up Time

You may have noticed that in all of our examples so far, we've been talking about what I, the speaker, want.

But what if we want to discuss what other people want?

You cannot say 欲しい for people other than yourself. The presumable reason is that you cannot be 100% certain of what other people want.

Instead, we have to say something along the lines of "he/she seems to want" or "he/she said he/she wants."

Specifically:

欲しがる
ほしがる
to (appear to) want

You'll often see this verb in progressive tenses (is appearing to want // was appearing to want), so you might want to memorize these conjugations:

Present Progressive (Formal):
欲しがっています
ほしがっています
is appearing to want

Present Progressive (Somewhat Casual):
欲しがっている
ほしがっている
is appearing to want

Present Progressive (Casual):
欲しがってる
ほしがってる
is appearing to want

Past Progressive (Formal):
欲しがっていました
ほしがっていました
was appearing to want

Past Progressive (Somewhat Casual):
欲しがっていた
ほしがっていた
was appearing to want

Past Progressive (Casual):
欲しがってた
ほしがってた
was appearing to want

Note that labels like "formal" and "somewhat casual" are very hard to make without a sentence in context. For example, the plain form verbs labeled "somewhat casual" could appear in formal sentences if they're not the last verb of a sentence. Ugh, I don't want to talk about formality today.

Oh, also, don't worry if this seems a bit overwhelming, as there will be an entire N4 lesson on the ~がる verb suffix in the future.

わたしの叔母は新しい冷蔵庫をほしがっています
わたし の おば は あたらしい れいぞうこ を ほしがっています。
My aunt wants a new refrigerator.
Literally: "I + の + aunt + は + new + refrigerator + を + is appearing to want."

When I first learned about ほしがる, I did not take the time to really commit to learning the conjugations listed above to memory. I suffered because of this. Being able to talk about what other people (appear to) want is an important speaking skill. Learn the conjugations!


The second way we can talk about someone else wanting something is by simply quoting them:

欲しいと言う
ほしい と いう
to say that one wants (something)
Literally: "wanted + と + say."

わたしの叔母は新しい冷蔵庫がほしいと言っています
わたし の おば は あたらしい れいぞうこ が ほしい と いっています。
My aunt has been saying that she wants a new refrigerator.
Literally: "I + の + aunt + は + new + refrigerator + が + wanted + と + is saying / has been saying."

You made it to the end of the lesson!

We looked at a lot in this one, but this is all extremely important grammar for mastering Japanese.

So get your grit on and do whatever you can to commit it to memory. ^_^




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