A friend of mine asked me:


To which I (with glee) responded: 一定想要

To this, he said that I can only say 一定想 or 一定要 but not 一定想要.

So, why can he use 想要 in the question, but I can't use it in my answer?

Are there other verbs where this happens?

  • 想,要,想要,都是口语的,没有严格的语法语义的区别。想,偏向自己一方的意愿。要,偏向要求对方。一定,表示自己更强的意愿,更多用于正式的文件。
    – PdotWang
    Commented Jun 9 at 11:32

4 Answers 4


Here is some example

想要知道怎麼用 > want to know how to use it.

想要說好漢語 > want to speak Chinese well.

想要了解這件事情 > want to know about this thing.

In this case, we usually respond 想要啊 (啊 is like Umm, ya!, Wow. It is a tone.) or 想要. We do not say 一定想要. If you really want to say 一定想要 in Chinese. We say 當然想 (Of course, I want!).

The example of 想

我想玩 > I want to play.
我想昨天在做甚麼 > I think what did I do yesterday.
我想做功課 > I want to do homework.

The example of 要

我要玩 > I want to play.
我要昨天在做甚麼(x) > I want what did I do yesterday. (x)
我要做功課 > I need to do homework.


Because 一定想要 is hard to be by itself. 一定想要 typically exists with other things. For example, 他人不一定想要, 這樣發朋友圈的女生一定想要男人, 他們到不一定想要馬上定下來或進入婚姻, and tons of examples can be found with google with "一定想要" on search bar. These examples show that people use 一定想要 along with other things. It is hard to find 一定想要 by itself. Therefore, your friend can do it in his question but not in your reply. Your friend's question has 你 before 想要, while your reply only has 一定想要 by itself. You can remove 一定 so that you can use 想要 too.


IMHO, the short answer is redundancy.

Both 想 & 要 in this context represent or express a desire that a certain event occurs, all having had its origin as a thought process.

想 by itself is a thought process per se, i.e. the "mental root" of all your desired actions.

要, in this context is a resultative desire which also has its origin from a thought process, i.e. 想; it cannot be otherwise.

Thus you find your friend's advice of "...that I can only say 一定想 or 一定要 but not 一定想要.

So, you use one or the other and not both to avoid a redundancy.

However, there is a song 原来你什么都不想要, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=np54VFHtA6w

The issue is therefore a lot more complex than meets the eye.

@Becky's answer in another post is very helpful here.


想要 - wish to get something (expression of a wishful thought)

要 - want (expression of a firm demand)

一定要 - certainly want (expression of a must)

Note the corresponding keyword in the sentences below:

Q: 你"要"我改正你的汉语? - Do you wish me to correct your Chinese? (Note the key word here is "想")

  • A: 是的, 我. - Yes, I wish. (Note: "我想要啊" and "是的, 我要" are also valid responses.)

Q: 你我改正你的汉语? - Do you want me to correct your Chinese?

  • A: 是的, 我. - Yes, I want.

Q: 你一定要我改正你的汉语? - Do you certainly want me to correct your Chinese?

  • A: 是的, 我一定要. - Yes, I certainly want.

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