5

What is the difference among the following two sentences?

  • 我 去 吃飯
  • 我 要 吃飯 了

According to my current knowledge, both translate to ''I am going to eat''.

6
  • 我吃飯 = I eat dinner (meal)

  • 我(去)吃飯 = I (go) eat dinner

  • 我(要)吃飯 = I (have to/ want to) eat dinner

  • 我(要)(去)吃飯 = I (have to/ want to) (go) eat dinner

You can add final particle '了' (indicate change of situation) to all the above examples :

  • 我吃飯了 = I eat dinner (meal) now- 了 indicates situation change from not eating to eating

  • 我(去)吃飯了 = I (go) eat dinner now- 了 indicates situation change from not going to going

  • 我(要)吃飯了 = I (have to/ want to) eat dinner now - 了 indicates situation change from not have eat to have to eat

  • 我(要)(去)吃飯了 = I (have to/ want to)(go) eat my dinner now - 了 indicates situation change from not have to go to have to go

去 + Action vs 要+Action+了

More examples:

  • 我看電影 = I watch movies

  • 我(要)看電影 = I (have to/ want to) watch movies

  • 我(去)看電影 = I (go) watch movies

  • 我(要)(去)看電影了 = I (have to/ want to) (go) watch movies now- 了 indicates situation change from not going to going

4

我 去 吃飯 sounds that you will go somewhere(eg. A restaurant) to have an eat. The sentence is used in response to 你干什么去?,干嘛去?

我 要 吃飯 了 sounds like, you have your meal handy/ready and you are just about to eat it. Or it's time for me to eat. Or just simply I am going to eat. Basically, the sentence is used when you want to tell somebody you are going to have a meal.

3

我 去 吃飯 I'm going to get something to eat.
我 要 吃飯 了 I wanna get my teeth into something.

我 去食堂 吃飯 I'm going to the canteen to get something to eat.
我要吃午饭。I want some lunch.

  • 我 去食堂 吃飯 = I go to the canteen to have a meal. – Tang Ho Jul 1 '18 at 2:26
2

You are correct, both can be translated as 'I am going to eat'. Yet "going" has completely different meanings in the two sentences.

The first one is "actually going / moving yourself to a place where you have food" and the second is "planning to, intending to have food".

This question is about ambiguity of English, not Chinese ;)

PS A better translation of the first phrase using "going" would be "I am going to have food / to a restaurant etc"

2
  • 我去吃饭 literally means "I go to have my meal" because 去 can be translated as "go" in Chinese. 我要吃饭了 literally means "I am going to have my meal". And in some context, it can also mean "I must have my meal".

  • The first one sounds more like you have already known or planned what you are going to eat and now all you have to do is to eat it directly.

  • Q:You seem to be in a hurry. (你似乎急急忙忙的) What are you going to do? (你要去做什么?)

  • A:I go to have my dinner. (我去吃晚饭) I'm gonna be late. (我要迟到了)

  • The second one is more frequently used in the context that it's time to have a meal and you decide to eat it.

  • E.g. Sorry to interrupt you. But I have to take a leave. I'm going to have a meal. (抱歉打断你了,但是我得离开一会。我要吃饭了。)

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