I don’t manage to grasp the difference between the two words 目的 or 目标.

I have seen some explanations stating that 目的 means purpose and 目标 objective but I don’t know if it is a cultural issue or not but there’s no difference for me between those two English words, which are mere synonyms...

If I have a purpose, I have an objective and vice versa... my end / main goal would be as much an objective as it would be a purpose so I really don’t get where the difference is...

To me, it all means the result I expect/ work on... if I meant the different steps to reach my goal, I’d use the word “step” for that so I’m quite confused by what their differences may be...

Would anyone mind to elaborate a bit more?

Thanks for your input.

  • From this repost, 目标 is a specific goal, or a numeric one, or a measurable one. – Shaw Jan 20 at 21:18

目的: goal/ purpose (intention of reaching an outcome)

Example: 目的是杀死比尔 = the goal is to kill bill (kill Bill is an intention and desire)


目标: goal/ objective/ target (intention of accomplishing something)

Example: 目标是杀死比尔 = the goal is to kill Bill (kill Bill is an intention and also an achievement)

目标 can mean "target" ; 目的 cannot

Example:目标是金牌 (the target is the gold medal)

You cannot say 目的是金牌 (the goal is the gold medal), you have to say 目的是夺取金牌 (the goal is to take the gold medal) and you have to state an action that would lead to the outcome, e.g 他每天训练8个小时, 目的是夺取金牌 (he trains 8 hours a day, the goal is to take the gold medal)

One more example:

目标是创造一百万个新工作 (the goal/target is to create one million new jobs)

一百万 is the targeted number; 创造一百万个新工作 is an achievement


"政府向小公司提供十亿美元的补贴, 目的是创造新工作"

"The government offers one billion dollars subsidy to small companies, the goal is to create jobs"


After reading the OP and others' comments, I would try to make it as simple as possible for the OP to understand the difference between 目的 and 目标

  1. When using 目的 (intention/ goal) you need to state specific means that would lead to the fulfillment of the goal. Many examples have been stated by me and the others. e.g. 每天训练8个小时 (train 8 hours everyday) is a specific mean.

  2. When using 目标 (target/ goal) You can omit the action. e.g. 我的目标是金牌 (my target is the gold medal). It implies you would achieve this goal by all means in general

  3. Just remember 目的 = intention (need to state specific action before it); 目标= target (don't need to state specific action before it, it implies using 'all' or 'any' mean by default.)

You can still state specific action when using 目标, but it would just be one of many actions you specifically state. e.g. "我每天训练8个小时, 我的目标是夺取金牌" can almost be treated as unrelated, separate sentences; while "我每天训练8个小时" and "目的是夺取金牌" are definitely related

  • Thanks for your input. However, this is the kind of answers I read before. The point being, I still don't make the difference between a target and a goal because in a sense, it's all the same to me as it includes desire to achieve it (so desire and achievement). If I say, "my goal is to speak Chinese fluently" 我的目的/目标是说中文说得流利, it's the goal and the target or purpose. – Mat Apr 4 '20 at 8:08
  • Again, thanks a lot. I think it’s one of the most comprehensive answer I’ll ever get about that. Cheers ! – Mat Apr 4 '20 at 11:17
  • I think one counter example to saying 目的 cannot be used to mean "target" is 目的地 (lit. target-ground), "destination". – Daniel Cheung Jan 22 at 11:36

目的 meaning is more antagonistic. In the sentences below, 目的 has directly the sense of 'intention'.






Even when it has the sense of 'goal', it involves more or less a relation of opposition.






In contrast, 目标 has the meaning of 'goal' in a self-concerned way.






Examples all come from http://bcc.blcu.edu.cn/lang/zh


Following on from Tang Ho's comprehensive answer, perhaps you could consider the following sentence for a usage difference between "purpose", (目的), and "target", (目标)

"Ladies and gentlemen, the purpose (目的) of today's meeting is to discuss how the Company could achieve a target (目标) of making 2 million face masks a day"

Translated as:-


目标 is better translated as "target" or "goal" as the word, "标", means a "mark", a "sign", (like a Bull's Eye), i.e. something tangible to hit or get at.

  • Thanks for your input. I think I got your point with the example of the meeting because you use a certain comparison, in which 目的 encompasses 目标 as a target is "part of" the goal . But how could I know, out of context, if something is a target or a goal per se when there's only one step or target e.g. "my goal is to speak Chinese fluently" ? For instance, here, both would fit in the translation to me. It's an end goal but also a target... :S – Mat Apr 4 '20 at 8:12

I am responding to your comment in the answer column because of the length of my reply.

Herein lies, I suppose, the difficulties of trying to transpose the peculiar nuances of one language into another and willing them to come up an exact fit. It is, in my view, asking too much of two languages which have many grammatical, syndetic differences.

Therefore, the particular lexical definitions and contextual usages of English words like "purpose", "objective", "target", "intention", "goal", etc, may or may not find their exact twins, in body and soul, to satisfy your understanding of their counterparts in Chinese words on offer.

All I can offer you at this juncture of your Chinese learning journey, (a journey we are all on), is that it takes time, effort and a further understanding of the nuances of the Chinese language to answer your question -- "...But how could I know, out of context, if something is a target or a goal per se..."

Perhaps others with greater knowledge of the language around here could offer a better answer, or advice, to a very good question from you which was why I gave that up-vote.

Finally I am sure with further studies of the language, (like your command of the English language) you will soon realize the subtle differences between 目的 and 目标 and perhaps many others beside.

BTW, for "my goal is to speak Chinese fluently" would be 我的目标是流利地说中文

Why 目标 and not 目的?

Because, to make it 目的, you would need to say -- "The purpose of my attending more classes is to speak Chinese fluently" -- 我参加更多课程的目的是流利地说中文。

The above, commensurate with my particular ability, is the best I could do.

  • Thanks a lot for your input. I really appreciate it. Even though I don’t grasp it yet, I guess I’ll get the more subtle understanding of those differences over time indeed. But your comment does help a lot! Thanks again – Mat Apr 4 '20 at 11:12

I'm a bit late to the game (!), but I asked my Chinese teacher about this as I was still struggling with the difference between these two. I am a native English speaker, and, like Mat, I think the problem is that all these words (goal, aim, objective, target, purpose) overlap quite significantly in English.

My teacher gave me some really helpful examples to compare that made it really clear to me. She basically said that a 目标 is a specific target, and a 目的 could be translated as like an 'overarching goal' or 'end game'. Here are some examples to see the differences:

我今年的学习目标是通过HSK5级的考试。- specific goal for this year

vs 我学习汉语的目的是能和中国人沟通。- overarching end objective

我这个周末的目标是打扫我的房子。 我的目的是让我的心情好! - tidying your house is a specific goal, but the end goal is to put you in a good mood.

公司这年双11的目标是卖百万元因为他们的目的是不断增长。- the first is a specific sales target, the second is their bigger goal.

I hope that helps someone the way it helped me! I double checked my characters, but if I've typed anything wrong, please let me know!

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