How to say “need” in Chinese (需要): Want vs.

Understanding and talking fluently in a foreign language aside from English can be tricky, especially if you are starting. You need a lot of time to master many terms and phrases to communicate well in the future.

Today, you will learn how to say “need” in Chinese and the differences in every sentence you make.

When to use Want vs. Need in Chinese?

People need several words to communicate. However, understanding foreign languages can be difficult.

Have you ever tried to ask for something in Chinese but failed due to the language barrier? Have you wanted coffee with a friend after work, but they couldn’t comprehend you?

This article will help you speak clearly to your colleagues.

When to use Want?

Three words in Chinese can be used to express “want,” although the first two are the most common. The third word is a combination of the first two. These may seem time-consuming and confusing, but you will eventually find it an advantage if you want to get some things.

想 (xiǎng) – would like to, to think, to think of

想, 要 and 想要 can all mean ‘want’ in some sense, but 想 is the least dynamic of the three. A typical case of this is understanding that 想 can be expressed in many ways.

Remember that the best way to get a natural feel for the language (语感) is to expose yourself to it as much as possible and practise using it whenever possible.

想 + verb as ‘would like to’

In most situations, it is more fitting to think of the word want as being similar to the phrase “would like to” than with the word “want.” Only a verb or verb phrase can help convey its meaning. In other terms, this can only be understood with an auxiliary verb.

If you use it directly with a noun, it has a slightly different meaning than when used with other words. This one insignificant aspect should clarify its importance.

Have a look at some example sentences:

  • 我想去加拿大. Wǒ xiǎng qù jiānádà. I’d like to go to Canada.
  • 我不想见她. Wǒ bùxiǎng jiàn tā. I don’t want to see him.
  • 我真的不想喝咖啡. Wǒ bù tài xiǎng hē kāfēi. I don’t want to drink coffee.

In each example, a verb follows 想. Also, look at how 想 does mean ‘want’ in these situations, but it’s not that strong. If a speaker wants to be clear and emphatic in expressing ‘want’, they’re likelier to use the much more forceful 要.

Because of their impact, 想 can often be a more polite substitute for 要. For example, when ordering or requesting something, saying 想 is usually more polite than saying 要.

Another feature of 想 is that it can be paired with 很 or 好 to mean ‘really would like to’ or ‘really want to’. Have a look at some examples:

  • 我真的很想告诉他! Wǒ zhēn de hěn xiǎng gàosù tā! I’d like to tell him!

想 as ‘to think of and ‘to miss’

Finally, it’s worth looking at another meaning of 想. This is 想 as in 想念: ‘to think of’ or ‘to miss’. You can see how these meanings of 想 can be connected. You might be able to get a sense of some basic concepts that lie behind all three purposes.

Have a look at these:

  • 我真的很想念他们. Wǒ zhēn de hěn xiǎngniàn tāmen. I miss them.
  • 我想你。Wǒ xiǎng nǐ. I miss you.
  • 我在想你. Wǒ zài xiǎng nǐ. I’m thinking of you.

要 (yào): to want, to be going to

Going on to the second ‘want’ verb: 要. Let’s first look at using 要 as an auxiliary verb. The main points to remember about 要 + verb are that it either:

  • Demonstrates ‘to want or ‘to need’ quite emphatically;
  • Shows a definite intention;
  • Shows a future action.

It’s impactful and much more direct than 想.

  • 她要过来. Tā yào guòlái. She wants to come over here.
  • 我要去巴黎大. Wǒ yào qù jiānádà. I want to go to Canada.
  • 我要一杯咖啡. Wǒ yào yì bēi kāfēi. I want to order Coffee.

想要 (xiǎng yào): to desire, to want

The verb 想要 is the riskiest of the three because it is broader. It can range from indicating a simple want or request to a strong desire for something or sexual desire. 想要 is commonly used in standard requests for things but is also a common way to express sexual desire.

Have a look at some samples:

我想要些芒果. Wǒ xiǎng yào xiē Mángguǒ. I want some mango.

我想要预约在今天下午8点. Wǒ xiǎng yào yùyuē zài jīntiān xiàwǔ 8 diǎn. I’d like to make an appointment for today at 8 p.m.

我想要看一看尼亚加拉瀑布. Wǒ xiǎngyào kàn yī kàn Níyǎjiālā Pùbù. I really want to see Niagara Falls.

When to Use Need?

Get to know when to use “need” and how to use them properly, as you read below.

需要 (xū yào) – I must, I need

The auxiliary verb 必须(bìxū) or 必须要(bìxūyào) is used in front of the principal verb to indicate an obligation, such as when someone commands people to do something, they must do it.

必须 or 必须要 is often used in more formal situations. It means it can be used daily.

Here are some samples:

  • 我想要去度假. Wǒ xiǎng yào qù dùjià. I need a holiday.
  • 你得戴化妆品. Nǐ děi dài huàzhuāngpǐn. You need makeup.
  • 我需要找工作. wǒ xū yào zhǎo gōng zuò. I need to find a job.

得 (děi) – I have to

The auxiliary verb 得 is softer than 必须 and is often used in more formal situations. The character 得 is often used as a particle and is pronounced “de.”


  • 我得回家. wǒ déi huí jiā. I have to go home.
  • 得走了. déi zǒu le. We have to go.
  • 你得去看医生. nǐ déi qù kàn yī shēng. You must go see a doctor.

Don’t Want and Don’t Need?

Aside from the words Need and Want, you might want to learn about their essential and needed counterparts in various situations.

Here are some phrases to use:

  • don’t want/wouldn’t like (不想 – bù xiǎng)
  • don’t want (不要 – bú yào)
  • don’t want (不想要 – bù xiǎng yào)
  • don’t need (不需要 – bù xū yào)
  • don’t have to (不用 – bú yòng)

How to express “Need” in Chinese?

Needs are less conditional than wants, making them easier to say.

Here are some phrases you can use to describe your needs in Mandarin:

  • 必须 (bì xū) — to have to, must
  • 需 (xū) — to need, to require
  • 得 (děi) — to have to, to ought to, to need to, must
  • 需要 (xū yào)—to demand, to require

You can negate all of the words for “need” with 不.

These phrases can and cannot be used efficiently. If your statements need clarification, they may not be easy to explain.


Whether you are speaking in English, Chinese or any other language. You have to make sure that your actions align with your words. Learn that language till you can talk confidently without looking at any video or book to guide you.

In the meantime, you should practice your Chinese in a notable language school. You needn’t worry about that because learning Mandarin is just one click away.

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