Free Chinese Mandarin Grammar Lesson For Beginners-Difference Xiang and Yao/Xiang Yao(想,要,想要)

‘想‘(xiǎng), ‘要’(yào),”想要Xiǎng yào” all express subjective intention and desire. They are basically the same in meaning. But there are tiny differences between them, and many people can not use them correctly. Let’s see what’s going on:

想xiǎng+verb(want to; wish to;feel like doing sth.)

-To express a hope/wish or a plan/intention(can be changed)


(1)他想学汉语Tā xiǎng xué hànyǔ。

-He wants/wishes to learn Chinese.

(2)我想买一本书Wǒ xiǎng mǎi yī běn shū。

-I want to buy a book

(3)我想喝咖啡Wǒ xiǎng hē kāfēi

-I want to drink coffee.

(4)我想买一个大房子!Wǒ xiǎng mǎi yīgè dà fángzi!(maybe just a wish)

-I want to buy a big house!

(5)我想去北京旅游。Wǒ xiǎng qù běijīng lǚyóu.

-I want to travel to Beijing.

The negative form of “想xiǎng” is “不想bùxiǎng”:

E.g: 他不想学汉语Tā bùxiǎng xué hànyǔ.

-He doesn’t want to learn Chinese.

要yào+verb(want to;desire;decide to do sth)

-Emphasizes intent or a demand.

1, want to(already decided):

(1)我要喝咖啡Wǒ yào hē kāfēi。

-I want to drink coffee. 

(2)他要学汉语Tā yào xué hànyǔ。

-He wants to learn Chinese.

Note: Here, the negative form of “要yào” usually is “bùxiǎng” not “bùyào.”

E.g., He doesn’t want to learn Chinese.

❎他不要学汉语Tā bùyào xué hànyǔ。

✅他不想学汉语Tā bùxiǎng xué hànyǔ。

2, Need to; will; be going to:


(1)我明年要去中国Wǒ míngnián yào qù zhōngguó.

-I am going to China next year.

(2)我要去上班了Wǒ yào qù shàngbānle。

-I need to go to work; I’m going to work.

Note: Here, the negative form of “要yào” usually is “bù yòng” not “bùyào.”

E.g: I don’t need to go to work;

❎我不要去上班了Wǒ bùyào qù shàngbānle。

✅我不用去上班了Wǒ bùyòng qù shàngbānle。

想要(wish to have/to do sth.;desire),meaning can be the same as “想”,

(1)你想吃什么Nǐ xiǎng chī shénme?

=你想要吃什么Nǐ xiǎng yào chī shénme

What do you want to eat?

(2)我想喝咖啡wǒ xiǎng hē kāfēi。

=我想要喝咖啡wǒ xiǎng yào hē kāfēi。

-I want to drink coffee.

“想要xiǎng yào” vs  “想xiǎng”:

“想要xiǎng yào” can use before a measure word/numeral/noun, but “想xiǎng” can not.


I want some chocolate.

我想要些巧克力Wǒ xiǎng yào xiē qiǎokèlì。

❎ 我想些巧克力Wǒ xiǎng xiē qiǎokèlì.

✅我想吃些巧克力Wǒ xiǎng chī xiē qiǎokèlì。

-I want to eat some chocolate

她想要个孩子Tā xiǎng yào gè háizi。

-She wants to have a baby.

❎她想个孩子Tā xiǎng gè háizi。

✅她想生个孩子Tā xiǎng shēng gè háizi。

-She wants to have a baby

Note: when it’s used in Negative, no need to add measure word/numeral:

❎我不想要些巧克力Wǒ bùxiǎng yào xiē qiǎokèlì。

✅ 我不想要巧克力Wǒ bùxiǎng yào qiǎokèlì。

❎我不想吃些巧克力Wǒ bùxiǎng chī xiē qiǎokèlì.

✅ 我不想吃巧克力Wǒ bùxiǎng chī qiǎokèlì。

”要Yào” vs “想要xiǎng yào” vs  “想xiǎng”(Difference Xiang and Yao)

”要Yào” can be too strong to express your desire and sounds impolite(That’s why we usually don’t use”bùyào” for negative form.)


我不要吃巧克力Wǒ bùyào chī qiǎokèlì。-I don’t want to eat chocolate. (impolite)

我不想吃巧克力Wǒ bùxiǎng chī qiǎokèlì。-I don’t want to eat chocolate. (more polite)


老师,我要你帮个忙Lǎoshī, wǒ yào nǐ bāng gè máng。

-Mr. I want you to do me a favor. (impolite)

老师,我想你帮个忙Lǎoshī, wǒ xiǎng nǐ bāng gè máng。

=老师,我想要你帮个忙Lǎoshī, wǒ xiǎng yào nǐ bāng gè máng.

-Mr. I would like you to do me a favor. (polite)

老师,我想请你帮个忙Lǎoshī, wǒ xiǎng qǐng nǐ bāng gè máng.

=老师,我想要请你帮个忙Lǎoshī, wǒ xiǎng yào qǐng nǐ bāng gè máng.

-Mr. I would like you to do me a favor. (most polite)


1,要yào(strong desire/things already decided, also can be a bit impolite if you ask for help),想xiǎng=想要xiǎng yào(weak desire or more polite)


A.The negative form for ‘想‘(xiǎng) is ‘不想‘(bùxiǎng).

B.The negative form for ‘想要‘(xiǎng yào) is ‘不想要‘(bùxiǎng Yao).

C.When ‘要’(yào) is used to express desire. Its negative form can be”不要bú yào”(strong/impolite) or ”不想bùxiǎng”(weak/polite).

For actual need, its negative form is ‘不用’(bú yòng).

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