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I just yet made the sentence:

その場所の日本人はさすがに外国人が日本語を学ぶのを手伝いたがる人なんだ。

I used “〜たがる” instead of “〜たい” on the rule that “〜たい” can only be used to ask, conditionals, or in cases where one can report with absolute confidence on the desires of something, such as one's own desires or in the capacity of the omniscient narrator of a story. I do this intuitively in main clauses without thinking much of it, but I'm not entirely sure of how this works in relative clauses. For some reason:

あの人は手伝いたい。

seems wrong to me over “〜たがる”, yet:

あの人は手伝いたい人だ。

doesn't feel wrong to me, but I'm not sure how correct this intuition is. But for what it's worth “手伝いたがる人” when searching for it is exceedingly rare compared to “手伝いたい人” suggesting that it might not be necessary.

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As suggested by the search results, you can safely say 手伝いたい人 because you already know about their willingness to help. Saying 手伝いたがる人 is also perfectly correct, but it conveys an extra nuance of "(externally) showing the willingness to help".

Saying this verbosely is harmless at least in this case, but depending on the context, it may sometimes imply their help is unwelcome. For example, お手伝いをしたい子供 is neutral, but お手伝いをしたがる子供 may tend to refer to children who insist on helping even when it's not necessary.

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  • Given that it's about knowing their willingness to help, is simply using “手伝いたい” instead of “手伝いたい人だ” correct as well? Because that does feel wrong to me completely naked in a main clause.
    – Zorf
    Nov 26, 2023 at 6:35
  • @Zorf It really depends on the context. Please read the link I posted as a comment.
    – naruto
    Nov 26, 2023 at 6:38
  • I'm not really seeing the relationship to this particular case in that comment though and none of the examples there in the second, long reply touch upon this particular case. The only context I can think of where a bare “〜たい。” for this sentence would make sense is an omniscient narrator, but the context here was myself talking about the Japanese people at a certain place. My own intuition says that in that case “〜たい。” sounds unnatural, but “〜たい人だ。” sounds natural and I wonder if that intuition is correct.
    – Zorf
    Nov 26, 2023 at 6:50
  • @Zorf See the "person desiring something not mentioned explicitly" section in that long answer. 手伝いたい人 refers to people who has this desire in general, not someone in particular, and that's why たがる is unnecessary.
    – naruto
    Nov 26, 2023 at 7:19
  • I don't see the relationship to be honest. That sentences such as “食べたい人はいるの?” and “使いたい人はいつでも使ってください。” are fine is intuitive and self-evident to me. This isn't the same as “あの人は食べたい人だ”. All the examples there are conditions that apply to a class of persons, rather than unconditionally stating the current feelings of a particular person, nor does it say anything about whether simply stating “あの場所の日本人は日本語を学ぶのを手伝い。” in the aforementioned context sounds natural.
    – Zorf
    Nov 26, 2023 at 7:49

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