How to ask something like "what would you like to do?"


Let’s say I want to ask “what would you like for dinner”. I could say 「晩ご飯は何を食べたいですか」 to mean “what do you want to eat for dinner”. Is this a good way to say “what would you like for dinner”? Is there a better way to ask this question, or is “would like to” and “want to” the same thing in Japanese?

What about for something slightly more complicated, like “what would you like me to do”? Here is the example that’s been floating around in my head:
Other Person (in English): Say something in Japanese.
Me (in Japanese): What would you like me to say?

How do I say that in Japanese? I don’t think you’re supposed to use ~たい for statements/questions that state or assume other people’s wants, but I’m not sure if this is the same situation. What is the appropriate way to say this?


Something like 「どう言えばいい?」should fit the bill, right?


Yeah, if you’re describing the wants or feelings of someone else, the appropriate construction is the ~がる ending, but when you’re asking someone you’re not presuming anything, so I think ~たい is okay, at least for people you are friendly with.

If it’s someone you don’t know, or a situation where you need to be politer, then probably avoid ~たい for them.

Basically, I’m pretty sure you can just combine them.

する to do
したい want to do
したがる want to do (describing someone else’s desire)


@Leebo Does using がる along with たい apply to my second example? How would you specifically write my question of “what would you like me to say” or equivalently “what do you want me to say”?

With the context that the conversation would be in, does that response make sense?


I think fyp’s sentence is what you need to do for asking someone what they think you should do. The construction for wanting someone else to do something is てほしい but I think it’s a bit convoluted to ask someone a question that way.

If you used it it would be something like 私が何を言ってほしいですか but I would hesitate to use it before confirming if its natural, just based on my gut feeling. Someone who has more experience with the usage in real life can chime in.

I think because it’s a relatively strong thing, to say you WANT someone to do something, it just comes off odd in question form.


This is mostly a matter of politeness. 何を食べたいですか is fine but you might want to say 何かを食べませんか? or perhaps more specifically 「食べ物」はいかがですか?
Also use たい in statements about others is not ungrammatical but might be considered impolite… I wouldn’t worry about that too much though.

“What would you like me to say?” - 何を言えばいいですか・何を言ったほうがいいですか or something along those lines is fine.


Okay, thanks everyone, I’ll have to review the grammar for ば.
I guess 「何を言えばいいですか」sort of literally translates to “what, if I say it, would be good”. Obviously that translation is terrible, but sometimes it helps me to think of the literal translation when I’m having trouble with a grammar point.

@Lostick In my first example, I’m specifically asking “what would you like to eat”. It sounds like your two alternate sentences are more along the lines of “do you want to eat”.


My first example literally means “what do you want to eat?” and the second something like “wouldn’t you like to eat something?”, which is less direct and so matches the theme of “what would you like to eat?” a bit better.

EDIT: Oh I may have misunderstood what you were referring to. The latter two sentences:
何かを食べませんか? - would you like to eat something
おにぎりはいかがですか - how about onigiri

It’s a little odd because this depends on context, i.e. if you’re friends, a guest at a house, or even in a restaurant. All will have different ways of asking the question.
Usually if you’re a guest at a house you will be offered something specific… If you’re out with friends it might just be something like 何を食べましょうか?

Sorry lol I’m going off on a lot of tangents.
In short, 何を食べたいですか is fine


I don’t remember anyone ever using a ~がる construction in this type of situation unless it’s 召し上がりますか or something of that nature.

I’ve never heard of ~たい constructs being impolite. 何を食べたいんですが seems perfectly normal. Adding the ん may soften the expression.

食事どうしますか is like what would you like to do for [dinner].


If you want be real polite about it:

何になさいますか? - like when you are taking a food order from someone. Or maybe asking very politely what someone plans to order, maybe?


If you are declaring, rather than asking, I think 〜たい is off the table. Obviously the rules go out the window a bit when talking with friends.


That makes sense. I can see not talking about what some other 目上の人 wants to do, but when politely asking someone what they’d like to do, I think ~たい has to be your go-to action.


Yeah, nothing wrong with just using ~たい for most situations. Either 何を食べたいですか for formal, 何を食べたい? for casual and then something like 何食べる? for super casual. Honorifics are very situational, and unless you’re taking your boss out to eat, I don’t think you’d use them.


About the use of tai in statements, my boyfriend (Japanese) often corrects me when I use -tai for statements about other people, including him. He told me to simply add sou da or sou desu after tai. Obviously this is not for questions or for statements about your own wants.

Example: あなたは自転車を買いたいそうだけど、今、余裕がないんだってね。
“You want to buy a bicycle but can’t afford it now.”


Yeah, words like “would” & “could” don’t really exist in Japanese. Or at least not the same way they do in English. (I still have Japanese friends who are confused about how to properly use those two words.)

What you wrote as an example sounds perfectly good to me. If it was me, I’d probably just say something like 「何食べる?or 夜ご飯って、何食べたい?」But your way is probably better. (Haha) I avoid keigo too much for my own good.

Some people have already given some good examples for your second question,

But if you’re asking someone "What would you like me to do?"
You can say something like, 私はどうすれば良いですか? Or just a simple どうすれば良いの?Is good too.


そう is not required, especially if it’s informal (e.g. with your boyfriend). Might just be he’s correcting you because he likes doing it.


It’s not surprising that different Japanese people might have style preferences that vary.


Unrelated, but leebo what’s your average level up atm? I can’t tell if you’re catching up to me or not :smirk:


I’ve been between 6 days 20 hours and 6 days 22 hours for the last 4 levels or so, but I’ll be around 7 days this level. Overall it’s like 7 days 23 hours.


Yeah you’ll have me soon I think haha, I think mine’s a couple days more