Another Curveball from the Land of Japan

Japanese is a language of mystery and wonder…and, for that lovely reason, it can be confusing as all get out.

Here’s what I learned this week: 欲しい

Doesn’t it look all innocent and easy sitting there like that?

On my vocabulary list is says: 欲しい – want.

It still looks all innocent, doesn’t it?

Only, it doesn’t quite look like a verb.

That’s because it isn’t a verb. It’s an ADJECTIVE. In fact, it’s an いー形容詞 – an i-adjective.

Huh? An adjective?


英語で: I want a computer.

日本語で: 私はコンピューターを欲しいです。

Let’s break those down so we can see why I’m so freaked out by this:

In English was get

I (noun – subject)

want (verb)

a (indefinite article) (this word doesn’t exist in Japanese, by the way)

computer (noun – object).

This makes sense to me because that’s the language I grew up speaking.

In Japanese we get:

私 (I – noun – subject)

は (particle indicating the topic of the sentence – it’s a Japanese thing)

コンピューター (computer – noun – object – just sound it out if you know Katakana. If you don’t know Katakana, learn Katakana. It’s easy. You can learn it over a weekend if you want to)

を (particle indicating the object – that’s another Japanese thing)

ほしい (want…ADJECTIVE modifying…well, the object, I assume)

です (and…there’s your verb, more or less…actually, it’s called the copula, and me normally translate it using some form of the verb “to be” only there are lots of sentences where that doesn’t quite work, and, yeah, that’s another Japanese thing…and I don’t really know how to translate it in this particular case…)

I can’t quite figure out how to translate this sentence literally, so I’m not going to attempt it.

Isn’t Japanese wonderful, though?

Don’t ever think you’ve seen it all.  There’s something new waiting for you!



2 thoughts on “Another Curveball from the Land of Japan

  1. Here’s a small piece of info that might spare you some confusion:

    There’s a verb form of 欲しい. It’s 欲しがる. You’ve probably seen this written in te-form as 欲しがっている, which literally means something like “shows signs of wanting”.

    This verb form of 欲しい is important, because you CAN’T use 欲しい when you’re referring to a third person (e.g. “Pamela wants a computer.”) This would imply that you know the feelings of Pamela, which I guess is an impolite implication; for that reason, you have to use 欲しがっている.

    One other thing to add is about particles. When using the verb form, 欲しがる, the correct particle to use is を to designate a direct object. But when using the adjectival form, 欲しい, you need to use が. (E.g. コンプューターが欲しいです。) That’s because the verb in this case is です, which doesn’t take a direct object.

    Hope this helps


    • Thanks for the explanation! My book mentioned that you couldn’t use 欲しい when referring to a third person, but it hasn’t yet explained what you would do in that case, so you have helped clear something up for me.  ありがとう!


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