I've recently come across the sentence [花]{はな}さんの[車]{くるま}がほしいです, which I could intuit to mean "I want Hana's car". But Hana's car seems to be the object in this sentence.

Why is が used here instead of を?

  • 4
    I you change the meaning of ほしい from 'want' to 'is desirable (to me)' then the problem goes away. Commented Apr 6 at 15:04
  • @user3856370 Oh, now it makes perfect sense. If you write that as answer I'll upvote and mark it as answer.
    – MechMK1
    Commented Apr 6 at 16:20
  • I didn't know that reading furiganas replaced with rōmaji was so unpleasant, please never do this again. Commented Apr 6 at 16:51
  • @GuiImamura Is it better now?
    – MechMK1
    Commented Apr 6 at 19:46
  • 2
    There is also literary/archaic transitive verb [欲]{ほっ}する, with which the wanted/desired thing is marked by usual particle を. See also this and this. [欲]{ほ}しい is related to this verb, but exact derivation of [欲]{ほ}しい is unknown.
    – Arfrever
    Commented Apr 6 at 20:12

1 Answer 1


I think the problem comes from the translation of ほしい as 'want'. Although this is the most common translation, as you have pointed out, it breaks the grammar. ほしい is an adjective in Japanese and, as such, cannot take an object, so 'want' is rather clumsy as a direct translation.

If you want to preserve sensible grammar then it is better to think of ほしい as meaning 'is desirable (to me)'. This phrase naturally takes the thing that is desired as the subject of the sentence.

Of course when you translate from Japanese to natural English it is far more sensible to say "I want X" rather than "X is desirable to me" which is presumably why it is most commonly translated as 'want'.

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