Why is it that to say I very much or really want something I have to say 我很想要... and not just 我很要...

So if I wanted a cup of coffee I would say


But if I want to say I really want coffee I have to add 很想 and not just add


Why is this the case? or is my understanding of this incorrect?

  • 2
    Is it grammatical to say "I very want coffee"?
    – 杨以轩
    Oct 25, 2013 at 3:46
  • 2
    @QuestionOverflow no, but it's ok to say "I really want coffee". But then "我很想要咖啡" doesn't really translate to "I very think want coffee". Either way I feel there's more to the question than it first seems. Oct 25, 2013 at 4:15
  • 1
    @QuestionOverflow No but it would be correct to say "I quite want a cup of coffee" is grammatically correct to say and looking at translations of quite / very / awfully / much even more on google translate hence my question as with this many ways of translating single hanzi it's hard to understand
    – 50-3
    Oct 25, 2013 at 4:22
  • 4
    我觉得这种属于固定搭配,就像英语中也有固定搭配一样。“很”搭配的单词中就是没有“要”。毕竟是自然语言,不是所有的都能用逻辑去解释的,就算能解释,也不过是多一种特例而已,未必有很大的意义。我觉得很多英语中的短语搭配也无法解释。 Oct 26, 2013 at 13:02
  • 1
    It's grammatically incorrect, @QuestionOverflow gave the literally translation and in this case it works. You have to say 想要 (xiang yao). Best translation is "would like", expressing a desire. Putting 很 in front gives you 很想要 "really would like" or "would really like"
    – grayQuant
    Oct 26, 2013 at 22:11

3 Answers 3


I'm a native Chinese speaker.

If you want a cup of coffee, it is okay to say:


but actually, in most cases, you should say:


This is because "想要" is more polite, although "want" means both "想要" and "要" if we directly translate it.

Regarding your question, if you want to tell people that you really want something (or to do something), you should say it in a polite way. So you should say


By the way, if you feel this complicated, you can simply forget the expression of "我要 + something", and just say "我想要 + something" everywhere.

  • 2
    Best practical advice. Going around saying "我要 + something" is kind of rude anyway. Best to just forget that expression and adopt 我想要, which is what most Chinese say anyway.
    – grayQuant
    Oct 26, 2013 at 22:13
  • Thanks for that, does raise a point of if your in a informal setting where 我要 is acceptable why do you have to be polite to express your strong desire for something. I know I have to I just don't know why?
    – 50-3
    Oct 28, 2013 at 0:53
  • 1
    @50-3 Good question, but no direct answer. It's a language evolution issue. Just like the question why we must say "go home" but not "go to home" although we also say "go to school". But who knows, maybe 1000 years later "我很要" will be acceptable.
    – Wang Disi
    Oct 28, 2013 at 14:46
  • Now all I can think about is 回家 vs 去家 but that's is a question for another day. -_- over a 4 day period you have provided the best so you get bonus internet points
    – 50-3
    Oct 28, 2013 at 20:32
  • I think 我要一杯咖啡 may be translated to "I request a cup of coffee". So you cannot add a "very" into it. Nov 3, 2013 at 15:08

In English we can say I like coffee very much, but in Chinese we cannot say "我很要一杯咖啡" but "我很想来杯咖啡"——because "很" is a depth adverb, it is used to describe the depth of something done (how deeply is something done?).

So: "很" can be used:

1) Describe an adjust (even the adjective is used as predicate in a statement):

e.g: 她**美丽(She's very beautiful).

2)Modify some special verbs (some verbs like "love","like","hate"……), describing something about your mind activity.

e.g: 他很**他。他**想要一杯牛奶。小明**喜欢游玩。

  • An adjust? You mean an adjective? Oct 29, 2013 at 2:17
  • very very sorry, an adjective;)
    – xqMogvKW
    Oct 29, 2013 at 3:10

First, let’s look at some background information.

  1. “想”: when “想” means “to want”, it’s a psychological verb.
  2. “要” : is a volitive auxiliary, but it also has the meaning of “ to want” in some situations.

When they both mean” to want”, they have different structures:

  • 想: 想+ verb + object eg 我想喝一杯咖啡。我想要一杯咖啡。
  • 要: 要+ object eg 我要一杯咖啡。

Because 想 can’t be directly used before the objective, it needs a verb in the middle, like 想吃,想喝,想要。Unless when 想 means “to miss”, it can be used before the objective directly. Like: 我想你。( I miss you。) And 很 can only be used before psychological verbs and adjectives, that means you can say : 很想,很想要, but not 很要。

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