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Wanting to do something with "yao"

The auxiliary verb 要 (yào) has several different meanings, and here we'll tackle the "want to" meaning. To express "wanting to do" something, use 要 (yào) before the verb.


The verb 要 (yào) can be used as an auxiliary verb to indicate wanting to do something.

Subj. + 要 + Verb + Obj.


  • 学 中文。yào xué Zhōngwén.He wants to study Chinese.
  • 宝宝 睡觉。Bǎobao yào shuìjiào.The baby wants to sleep.
  • 早饭 我 吃 沙拉。Zǎofàn wǒ yào chī shālā.For breakfast I want to eat salad.
  • 今天 很 累,我 休息。Jīntiān hěn lèi, wǒ yào xiūxi. Today I'm very tired.I want to rest.
  • 这 个 周末 你们 做什么? Zhè ge zhōumò nǐmen yào zuò shénme?This weekend what do you want to do?

要 and 想

Instead of using 要 (yào) it is also possible to use the word 想 (xiǎng). These two words are both auxiliary verbs and are largely interchangeable, and both generally mean "to want." The only difference worth mentioning is that 要 (yào) is often used when it is something you want to/need to do, and plan to take action on. It can sound a bit more demanding (and less polite). 想 (xiǎng) on the other hand, is often used as an idea of one's mind, that one may or may not take action on. You can think of it as meaning "would like to."


  • 喝 咖啡 。 (I am going to get my hands on some coffee)yào hē kāfēi.I want to drink coffee.
  • 喝 咖啡 。 (I want to drink a cup of coffee, but may or may not act on that)xiǎng hē kāfēi.I'd like to drink coffee.
  • 吃 什么 ? yào chī shénme? What do you want to eat?
  • 吃 什么 ? xiǎng chī shénme? What would you like to eat?

See also

Sources and Further Reading