I know both of them mean "want to" but have usage in different contexts. When should I use each one?

For example:

我要去上海市 and 我想去上海市

What's the difference in the meaning between them?

Also, I've seen these two characters together in some sentences.


When they're together, is there a third context?

  • Can I ask, why do you use 厺 instead of 去? This was the first time I've ever seen the former and I had to look it up in a dictionary.
    – Bjorn
    Dec 21, 2011 at 19:18
  • I think the one I used was traditional writtern, whereas yours is simplified. Can check more at yizitong.com/dict/xinhua_results.php?o=%E5%8E%BB&l=1
    – gustavotkg
    Dec 21, 2011 at 19:30
  • 2
    This is a very old shape for 去, and currently not even used traditional Chinese (well, a search on web didn't return many normal articles). So I think it is safe to say that this character is not used in current Chinese. It should be only used to transcribe very old articles, when the character did take this shape.
    – fefe
    Dec 23, 2011 at 10:34

4 Answers 4


The way I differentiate between these two is using "want" and "need".

In English "need" still means "want to", but there is an added necessity.

This is apparent in the following two sentences:


I want to eat


I need to eat

You will also hear people using 需要 (Xūyào) to indicate need, so just think of 要 as a shortened version of that:


What do you need me to do

想要 is interchangeable with 想 in most uses.

Also worth noting is 要 can be used to indicate "going to":


Why do you want to break it?


Why are you going to break it?


Why do you want to go to (his/her) house?


Why are you going to (his/her) house?

  • 1
    Is 需要 alway interchangeable with 要, or are there some rules about that?
    – Cocowalla
    Dec 19, 2011 at 8:40
  • @Cocowalla - They are interchangeable.
    – going
    Dec 19, 2011 at 9:27
  • Nice answer, thanks. I found this question when typing my own version of it. A small follow-up question for you: why did you translate 他家 as "his/her house"? 他 is unambiguously male, isn't it?
    – Don Kirkby
    Dec 29, 2011 at 6:30
  • 1
    @DonKirkby - On mainland China 他 is used for both male and female. I've only seen 她 used as a stylistic thing for advertising and some old formal writing. From my understanding 她 is still used in TW regularly.
    – going
    Dec 29, 2011 at 8:57
  • 1
    @xiaohouzi79 when I studied at Zhejiang University and Beijing Institute of Education, they taught both 他 and 她 (former for male, latter for female.) I never saw 他 to mean female also.
    – Ming
    Feb 19, 2014 at 6:35

要 has more certainty or confidence than 想 in tone.

  • So, 我要厺 is more like I will go and 我想厺 more like I really want to go but I don't know when or how ?
    – gustavotkg
    Dec 18, 2011 at 15:37
  • That's correct.
    – Bruce Li
    Dec 18, 2011 at 15:52
  • And how about these two together?
    – gustavotkg
    Dec 18, 2011 at 16:00
  • 2
    想要 = 想 in tone,but usually used to request someone else to do something. For example 我想要你帮我做一件事情。
    – Bruce Li
    Dec 19, 2011 at 0:33

想 means you 'want to do' something , but maybe you would not to do it, just think about it. 要 means you 'will do' something and it have been put in your schedule


要 usually means "want", but there are a few possible definitions to 想, 想 may possibly mean "think", or another possible definition is "want". Some examples: 我想去购物商场。 我要去购物商场。 我想要去购物商场。 When compared, 要 has more confidence in tone compared to 想.

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