I found the following in a footnote in an academic text:


Apparently, this is 参照 + さ(未然形 of する) + れ(連用形 of れる) + たい, where れる is honorific and たい has the following meaning from goo:

3 「ある」「である」「なさる」「くださる」や尊敬の助動詞「れる」「られる」に付いて、他に対する希望・要求を表す。…てほしい。「正直者がばかを見ない世の中でありたい」「別表を参照されたい」

Literally, I think it means "I want the reader to refer to the appendix". Does this usage of たい require an honorific when the meaning is "I want (somebody) to do (something)"? For example, can you say 参照したい here instead of 参照されたい without changing the meaning?

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    Practically, it needs honorific. Maybe we should regard it as a set phrase.
    – user4092
    Apr 29, 2018 at 1:38

2 Answers 2


Does this usage of たい require an honorific when the meaning is "I want (somebody) to do (something)"?

参照したい only means "I (=author) want to see...". As your dictionary says, this (ら)れる is important.

This ~されたい is a highly literary and stiff expression, and I think only a few people use it today. Even in stiff academic articles, ~を参照 or ~を参照のこと is far more common. Its classical-Japanese version, ~されたし, may be a little more popular (e.g., "ご注意されたし", "日程を調整されたし"), but no one around me actively use it. Although it's technically keigo, IMHO, this looks rather blunt/pompous if used in business emails.

You can combine たい with other (subsidiary) verbs and express "I want somebody to do something", for example 見てもらいたい, 見て頂きたい, ご出席願いたい.


This is an interesting construction. Here's my understanding of this.

  • In general, -たい can only be used for something desirous to the speaker. When talking about someone else's desires, -たがる is used instead -- from the basic underlying idea that the speaker cannot truly know what is going on in someone else's head. So the root -たい is suffixed with -がる, meaning "seems like, looks like, behaves like [whatever came before the suffix]".
    Since the expression in your sample text uses -たい, we know that this is talking about something the author wants.
  • されたい is simply される (passive for する) + -たい. In basic literal terms, it means that the speaker wants (the -たい) the action to be done (the される passive).

Applying that to the sample sentence, we get:

I would like the appendix at the end to be referenced.

In functional terms, this is used as a kind of more polite and indirect way of saying:

I want you to reference the appendix at the end.

This latter -てほしい construction is much more direct, and in all languages I've studied, direct statements may be viewed as less polite, perhaps even confrontational, while indirect statements are generally viewed as more polite and less confrontational.

goo's analysis

This may be a quibble, and is more of a deeper-level semantic argument. Beginning learners may want to ignore this section. :)

I confess I don't agree with goo's analysis. If we view the れる here as purely an honorific construction, then the action is still being done by the listener, and the -たい would then apply to an action done by the listener, and would point towards the state of mind of the listener. However, as I've been taught, -たい cannot be used when talking about the state of mind of the listener -- this can only apply to the speaker. This is why I view the される verb in 参照されたい as the passive rather than an honorific.

Viewed either way, as the honorific or the passive, the resulting meaning is the same, so this difference of opinion probably doesn't amount to much. :)

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    This され is not passive but honorific, as the online dictionary says. Japanese verbs can be used for any grammatical person. (You can grammatically use honorific verbs even for your own action, though it's limited when it works). たい can too (for both desires of your own and other one's). Actually, I even have seen this grammar used without the honorific conjugation, i.e remaining the form of したい meaning "I'd like them to do" (due to a newspaper's policy of avoiding any honorific verbs.) がる doesn't mean "seems like" but "to (actively) show some inner state".
    – user4092
    Apr 29, 2018 at 1:21
  • @user4092: I don't understand your reasoning about honorific-ness. I'm fully aware that honorifics can be used for any grammatical person. I've been told flat out that using -たい for others is incorrect, and exhorted to use -たがる for such cases. Is this distinction archaic now? About がる, Shogakukan's 国語大辞典 entry gives:『そのようにふるまう、そのようなふりをするの意を表わす。ぶる。「さかしがる」「粋がる」など。』 As English, "A seems like [qualifier or state B]" strikes me as roughly equivalent to "A (actively) shows [inner state B]". Perhaps it's a wording thing. Apr 29, 2018 at 5:50
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    「~を参照されたい。」の「され」は、受身じゃなくて尊敬ですね・・・。文語的な硬い文章(論文とか報告書とか役所の資料みたいなのとか。)で見かける、決まった言い方?みたいなやつですよね。「(私が人に)褒められたい。」とかとはぜんぜん違うし・・。 敬意を表していて・・ 「参照してほしい。」より「参照していただきたい。」に近いですね。using -たい for others is incorrect -- 例外なのかも。明鏡によると、この表現って「やや古風な言い方」だそうなので。。。
    – Chocolate
    Apr 29, 2018 at 13:20
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    @EiríkrÚtlendi This grammar is different from the usual problem of using たい for others in indicative (which can happen in some unusual cases). It's close to one that express a state of other objects that you would find desirable, as the article says …世の中でありたい.
    – user4092
    Apr 29, 2018 at 17:04
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    Anyway, we should at least avoid automatically changing たい for others into たがる and saying awful things like "(あなたは)食べたがっていますか?" (Are you even trying to eat it?).
    – user4092
    Apr 29, 2018 at 17:25

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