Language | WELL SAID

Expressing what you've been thinking about doing with 'to omotte-iru' and '-tai to omotte iru'

by Akemi Tanahashi and Hitomi Tashiro

Contributing Writers

Kikoku shite, ryōshin ni atte koyō to omotte iru n desu. (I’m planning to return to my home country and meet my parents.)

Situation 1: Ms. Shiba and her colleague Mr. Tien are chatting about their parents.

芝: ティエンさんのご両親は今、オーストラリアに住んでいらっしゃるんですか。

ティエン: ええ。来年の旧正月には久しぶりに帰国して、会ってこようと思っているんです。

Shiba: Tien-san no go-ryōshin wa ima, Ōsutoraria ni sunde-irassharu n desu ka?

Tien: Ee. Rainen no kyūshōgatsu ni wa hisashiburi ni kikoku shite, atte-koyō to omotte-iru n desu.

Shiba: Mr. Tien, are your parents living in Australia just now?

Tien: Yes. It’s been a while but I’m planning to return to my home country for the next Lunar New Year to meet my parents.

The structure Xと思(おも)う/思っている (where “X” is a verb in its volitional form) is used to express the speaker’s will or intention in a polite manner by giving the statement a qualifying “I think.” Xと思う connotes a judgement or decision that has been made at the time of speaking:

今日(きょう)は早(はや)く帰(かえ)ろうと思う。 (I think I’ll go home early today.)

Xと思っている conveys the idea that the speaker has been thinking about the decision ever since it was initially conceived, as in Mr. Tien’s remark of 会(あ)ってこようと思っている. In this case, he decided sometime earlier that he’d return home to “come and see” his parents but he hasn’t acted on it yet.

When the subject is not the speaker, only the Xと思っている structure can be used, and the terms ようだ (it looks), そうだ (I heard) or らしい (it seems like) are usually added:

田中(たなか)さんは会社(かいしゃ)を辞(や)めようと思っているそうだ。 (I’ve heard that Ms. Tanaka is thinking about leaving our company.)

Situation 2: Mr. Mita’s manager, Mr. Okubo, has a word with him about the future of his job.

大久保: 三田さんは今後について、どんな希望がありますか?

三田: そうですね…。海外で働きたいと思っているんです。できれば、東南アジアの国がいいんですけど。

Ōkubo: Mita san wa kongo ni tsuite, donna kibō ga arimasu ka?

Mita: Sō desu ne…. Kaigai de hatarakitai to omotte-iru n desu. Dekireba, Tōnan Ajia no kuni ga ii n desu kedo.

Okubo: Mr. Mita, with regards to the future, what kind of requests do you have?

Mita: Let’s see … I hope to work overseas. If possible, a Southeast Asian country would be great.

Using the structure Xたいと思う/思っている (where “X” is the masu-stem of a verb), the speaker can convey their wishes or desires indirectly, similar to the English “I hope to.” The possibility of their wishes being realized is lower than when using the Xと思う/思っている structure:

学校(がっこう)が終(お)わったら旅行(りょこう)に行(い)きたいと思う。 (I hope to go on vacation after school ends.)

ピアノに挑戦(ちょうせん)したいと思っている。 (I’m hoping to try the piano.)

Bonus Dialogue: Ms. Shiba and Mr. Tien are talking about tidying up their houses.

芝: 家(いえ)の中(なか)のものが増(ふ)えすぎちゃったから、片(かた)づけたいと思っているんです。

ティエン: ああ、うちもそうですよ。ものを減(へ)らして、すっきりした生活(せいかつ)をしたいと思うんですけどね。

芝: テレビなんかで、きれいに暮(く)らしている人(ひと)の家を見(み)ると、うらやましくって。でも、なかなか捨(す)てられないんです。いただいた物(もの)とか。

ティエン: そうですよね。思い出(で)がたくさんあって。

芝: 本(ほん)で読(よ)んだんですけど、そういうときは、ありがとうって言(い)って捨てるといいらしいですよ。

ティエン: ああ、そうですか?ぼくもやってみようかな。

芝: でも、捨てようと思っても、買(か)い物(もの)に行ってすてきな物(もの)があると、つい買ってしまうんです。

ティエン: なかなかむずかしいですねえ。

Shiba: There’s way too much stuff in my house, I’d like to tidy it up.

Tien: Ah, me too. Cut down on stuff and we can hope to have clear, neat lifestyles.

Shiba: I see people who live nice and clean on TV or something and I get jealous. But, it’s pretty hard to throw things out. Like gifts from friends and stuff.

Tien: That’s right. There are a lot of memories.

Shiba: I read it in a book that it’s good just to say thank you for those things and then throw them away.

Tien: Oh, is that so? I’ll try that too.

Shiba: Though, even if I want to throw things away, I’ll go shopping and see something nice, I’ll just buy it unintentionally.

Tien: It’s rather difficult, yeah.

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