To express the desire “to want” we take the stem of the verb (i.e. the present polite form with ます cut off) and add たい. The verb now behaves like an i-adjective and conjugates in exactly the same manner.

to write1き〜きたい
to read1み〜みたい
to say1い〜いたい
to see2たい
to do3するし〜したい

And because we have effectively changed the verb into an i-adjective, we should use が instead of the object particle を for transitive verbs.

I want to drink beer.
I wanted to do that.

That being said, you will often see the object particle used in both conversation and writing—as it was for the potential form of the verb.

The scenery is incredibly beautiful, isn’t it? I want to take a picture.
That’s a shame! I wanted to go together.
I don’t want to go on a business trip with my boss.
I want to hang out in Roppongi tonight.

To say want with a noun (e.g. “I want water”) we use the i-adjective ほしい.

I want a new watch.
I want a drink.

However, using ほしい is very direct—a child would use it to say, “I want water” or “I want something to eat”. Consequently, it is not appropriate to use to order in a restaurant, for example. We will see more polite ways of asking for something later when honorifics are introduced.

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