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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 肉。Zǎofàn wǒ yào chī ròu.For breakfast I want to eat meat.
  • 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 conveys an idea on 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 coffeeyào 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 thatxiǎng 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