In a sentence like "彼氏がいる" in spoken dialogue, I can't differentiate between "I need a boyfriend" and "I have a boyfriend".

I'm thinking that 要る can't be used for people, but just objects. If that is the case, what should be said instead to mean "I need a boyfriend"?

  • 3
    In English we often treat "need" and "want" as nearly semantically the same. Someone will go into McDonalds and order, "I need a big mac, coke, and fries." No one needs a big mac, coke, and fries; they want a big mac, coke, and fries. So, is it that you "need" a boyfriend or "want" a boyfriend?
    – A.Ellett
    Commented Jul 8 at 19:12
  • here i needed to express necessity not a desire, i don't want , i don't wish for a boyfriend. i need a boyfriend so hard that i will do anything, because it is really a need i have to . i don't know about your country you may have this where desire is similar to necessity, but for me i can relate that really the feeling is diffrent and that i should choose one over the other in diffrent situations, and in between my native language is not english.
    – Az_T
    Commented Jul 9 at 20:08
  • I wasn't trying to upset you. I'm just pointing out a certain semantics in spoken English. I'm not claiming there is a similarity between desire and necessity. They are indeed quite different. The example I offered is not all that unusual to be heard. In brief, in spoken English the semantic difference between the word "want" and "need" are nearly wiped away. If you need a boyfriend, you need a boyfriend. Incidentally, I've heard this from folks whether British, American, Canadian, Australian, or New Zealander. As for other parts of the world where English can be heard, I do not know.
    – A.Ellett
    Commented Jul 9 at 20:31
  • But here we are talking about japanese, i don't know if that goes for it as in English. in my country sometimes we use them interchangeably to mean both. (that weird but True )
    – Az_T
    Commented Jul 9 at 21:14
  • Indeed, but the question was asked in English and I wanted some clarity about what exactly you meant.
    – A.Ellett
    Commented Jul 9 at 21:17

2 Answers 2


For instance, when you say "このプロジェクトには彼がいる," it is unclear whether you are stating that he is a project member or that he is needed for the project. If it has been previously mentioned that he is a necessary person for the project, the meaning of ‘要る’ (to need) would be understood.” But to avoid confusion between ‘要る’ and ‘居る’, it is better to use "必要" like "このプロジェクトには彼が必要だ."

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I think it would be pretty unlikely that you'd confuse the two, because context usually helps distinguish them. Also, straight up saying 彼氏が要る sounds a bit weird to me, because it sounds like you're saying "a boyfriend is required", rather than I need a boyfriend. Further, 居る (what you simply wrote as いる but I chose to write in kanji for the purpose of differentiating both verbs) is 一段 ('ru'-verb) whereas 要る is 五段 ('u'-verb), so they change when taken to the polite form, 居る becoming 居ます and 要る becoming 要ります (notice the addition of り in the second one).

In general, the structure you looking for is either 必要 or ほしい. The first one literally means "there is a need for... X" or "X is required", whereas the second one is close in meaning to saying "I desire X". It is usually the second structure that would be used to say something similar to the English "I need a boyfriend" in my opinion, where you would say 彼氏がほしい, "I would like a boyfriend". If you are trying to say a boyfriend is necessary (usually for something), you could say 彼氏が必要。

  • 彼氏が要る yeah may sound weird but i really meant "boyfriend is required" and i wrote deliberately "いる” without kanji to express it like if it was in spoken language rather than written. you may be right that the verb is usually transformed to its polite or any form so i can tell which verb it is ( one is ichidan and the other is godan ) but let say that i wanted to express a fact or a future event like " boyfriend will be required " then i should choose the dictionnary form of a verb .
    – Az_T
    Commented Jul 9 at 20:22
  • my question here is what's the diffrent between the structures "要る“and "必要“ to express a requirement or a need . you said context will help, can you please give me an example.
    – Az_T
    Commented Jul 9 at 20:24
  • @Az_T Your question states that you can't differentiate between 居る and 要る in spoken language, and Saegusa has answered that, most of the times, the context will be enough; there's no mention in the answer about the difference between 要る and 必要. Commented Jul 9 at 22:46
  • @Az_T That is not what your question is asking, if you're wondering about the difference between 必要 and 要る, please ask another question as it is not related to your initial question.
    – Saegusa
    Commented Jul 10 at 8:28
  • Sorry that was my bad. i didn't noticed the title , i just changed the question . As you mentioned i should ask other questions in other posts for more details .
    – Az_T
    Commented Jul 10 at 20:42

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