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What Is たい?
〜たい is similar to other grammar points that express desire like 欲しい. Because it is a conjugated form of a verb that becomes an い-adjective, it basically means "want to do [the verb]." It's used for things you personally want to do and generally not for the desires of other people. This is because you can't read their mind. To express what others want to do, you need another piece of grammar like 〜たがる or 〜そうだ.
To form this piece of grammar, we need to start with the stem form of the verb, which is the ます form, minus the 〜ます.
How to Use たい
〜たい is a grammar formation that transforms a verb so you can use it to say, "I want to do [this verb]." It's one of the primary ways to express desire in Japanese, and once you know how to conjugate this form, it's really easy to use.
- I go to the department store.
The sentence above expresses that you are going to the store (now or in the future). It's a simple construction, and with one verb conjugation you can change the meaning to:
- I want to go to the department store.
Using the たい form is perfect for expressing things you personally want to do, so in general you cannot use it to speak for other people's desires, unless you add "conjectural language." These are words or phrases that make it clear you're guessing what the person wants or you somehow learned what they want.
と言った (they said)
- Kimura-san said he wants to eat okonomiyaki.
そうだ (I heard that)
- I heard that Tanaka-san wants to go get a drink with Kimura-san.
そうだ (it looks like)
- It looks like Tanaka-san wants to go to sleep.
らしい (it seems that)
- It seems that Kimura-san wants to fight.
You can also use 〜たい to speak for others without adding conjectural language when using the past tense:
- Kimura wanted to eat okonomiyaki.
Or when trying to explain the situation with んです/のです.
- (The explanation is) Kimura wants to eat okonomiyaki.
Otherwise, talking about what another person wants to do requires a completely different grammar point like 〜たがる.