For example,

寿司【すし】食【た】べたい。 寿司【すし】食【た】べたい。

If it is possible, then what is the difference in meaning or nuance?

Thank you.


2 Answers 2


Here’s the technical explanation, according to ‘Intermediate Japanese: A Grammar and Workbook' by Tsujioka and Hamano (2012, Routledge).

Basically they describe how Japanese verbs can be classified into two categories:

  • eventive verbs - describing an event. For example, 食べる.
  • stative verbs - describing a state. For example, ある.

In general, eventive verbs take the particle ~を to mark the object of the action:


Stative verbs, on the other hand, generally use ~が to mark the object:


A verb like 食べる in its base form is an eventive verb, as it describes the ‘event’ of eating. However, when you add the ~たい ending to make the formation 食べたい, the verb takes on a stative aspect. It is now describing the state of wanting to eat. So it has both eventive and stative properties. It also assumes the grammatical properties of a stative verb, which means that you can use ~が to mark the object. These dual grammatical roles mean that either ~を or ~が can be used without much difference in meaning.

In summary, there is very little difference in meaning between your two sample sentences, according to the explanation by those authors. One final note is that if other volitional suffixes (such as ~がる) are used, the stative meaning is reduced and ~を is preferred. So it all depends on the level of volition introduced by the suffix.

  • 2
    As an alternative analysis of verb types, stative verbs don't have an object -- they describe the subject -- so we use が as the subject particle. As an alternative analysis of たい, I'd read a description years ago that this suffix forms an adjective that describes a quality of something, wherein the action of the preceding verb stem is desirable. For 食べたい, the affected noun is "desirable for eating". This たい descriptive adjective is similar to a stative verb, and thus takes が as the subject particle. Commented May 15, 2019 at 23:31
  • However, ~たい doesn't always have to modify another word, as is the case with intransitive verbs. For example, 寝たい. So I'm not sure about analyzing ~たい in terms of its function as an adjective. It might work in some cases but seems not to apply to others. But when there is a direct object, perhaps it is linguistically close to an adjective.
    – kandyman
    Commented May 16, 2019 at 8:58
  • For たい on an intransitive, the described noun would be the subject of the regular verb without the たい, which is still a subject, even if left unstated. 寝たい as a single word in isolation would presumably apply to the speaker as the unstated subject. Commented May 16, 2019 at 15:56

The basic meaning of the both sentence are the same.

In this situation, you can emphasize your will by using instead of . So it is more natural to say "寿司食べたい" in the following situation.

  • You are asked which menu you want to eat.
  • You are very hungry.
  • You have little money and you haven't enjoying tasty meal these days. (Japanese people often use Sushi as an example of expensive food.)

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