top menu

Just Want 只要, Just Think 只想, Just Have 只有, and Just Am 只是 in Chinese

Recently, my Chinese tutor decided to help me understand the possibilities and nuances for using the character 只 ㄓˇ (zhǐ) in combination with some other common verbs. Like many things in language learning, the best way to get a better grasp of usage is to hear and try the words in sentences. She gave me several example sentences, then I made my own sentences. On the audio, you can hear her say these words using 我 ㄨㄛˇ (wǒ) as the subject, because they wouldn’t just be said alone in conversation:

我只要  ㄨㄛˇ ㄓˇ ㄧㄠˋ       (wǒ zhǐ yào)

我只有  ㄨㄛˇ ㄓˊ ㄧㄡˇ       (wǒ zhí yǒu)

我只是  ㄨㄛˇ ㄓˇ ㄕˋ           (wǒ zhǐ shì)

我只想  ㄨㄛˇ ㄓˊ ㄒㄧㄤˇ  (wǒ zhí xiǎng)

The definitions my Chinese-English dictionary gives of these combinations with 只 ㄓˇ (zhǐ) are not as inclusive as how my tutor was using them. I don’t fault the dictionary. It has helped me a lot. It is just hard to give all the connotations and examples in the dictionary format.

In our discussion, it was re-emphasized that when Chinese speakers use 想 ㄒㄧㄤˇ (xiǎng), the main literal meaning is “to think,” but the implication to the Chinese is that if you are thinking about it, you “want” it. Thus, “to want” is implied.

In the English, the word order is sometimes the opposite of the Chinese. Whereas in Chinese it is considered proper to say 只是 ㄓˇ ㄕˋ (zhǐ shì), literally “only am,” in English it is easily as common to say “am only” or “is only.

Maybe my trouble with my housekeeping and my puppy can help you practice using this vocabulary:

 

每天我只有二十四個小時

(每)(天)(我)(只)(有)(二十四)(個)(小時)

(ㄇㄟˇ) (ㄊㄧㄢ) (ㄨㄛˇ) (ㄓˇ) (ㄧㄡˇ) (ㄦ˙ ㄕˊ ㄙˋ) (ㄍㄜ˙) (ㄒㄧㄠˇ ㄕˊ)

(měi)(tiān)(wǒ)(zhǐ)(yǒu)(èr shí sì)(ge.)(xiǎo shí)

(every)(day)(I)(only, merely)(to have)(two tens four = 24)(measure word)(small + time = hour)

Every day I only have 24 hours.

 

如果我想要我們的家清潔,我得花時間打掃和刷洗。

(如果)(我)(想要)(我們的)(家)(清潔),

(ㄖㄨˊ ㄍㄨㄛˇ) (ㄨㄛˇ) (ㄒㄧㄤˇ ㄧㄠˋ) (ㄨㄛˇ ㄇㄣ˙ ㄉㄜ˙)                              (ㄐㄧㄚ) (ㄑㄧㄥ ㄐㄧㄝˊ)

(rú guǒ)(wǒ)(xiǎng yào)(wǒ men. de.)(jiā)(qīng jié)

(if)(I)(think to want)(our)(house)(clean)

…..(我)(得)(花)(時間)(打掃)(和)(刷洗)。

……(ㄨㄛˇ) (ㄉㄟˇ) (ㄏㄨㄚ) (ㄕˊ ㄐㄧㄢ) (ㄉㄚˊ ㄙㄠˇ) (ㄏㄢˋ)                              (ㄕㄨㄚ ㄒㄧˇ)

……(wǒ)(děi)(huā)(shí jiān)(dá sǎo)(hàn)(shuā xǐ)

……(I)(must)(to spend)(time)(to clean [implies sweeping])(and)(to scrub)

If I want our house clean I must spend time sweeping and scrubbing.

 

不過,我只想花時間在園字裡,所以我的家大概就不會太乾淨了。

(不過),(我)(只)(想)(花)(時間)(在)(園字)(裡),

(ㄅㄨˊ ㄍㄨㄛˋ), (ㄨㄛˇ) (ㄓˊ)❶ (ㄒㄧㄤˇ) (ㄏㄨㄚ) (ㄕˊ ㄐㄧㄢ)                      (ㄗㄞˋ) (ㄩㄢˊ ㄗ˙) (ㄌㄧˇ)

(bú guò), (wǒ)(zhí)(xiǎng)(huā)(shí jiān)(zài)(yuán zi.)(lǐ)

(however), (I)(only, merely)(to think)(to spend)(time)(at)(garden)(in)

…..(所以)(我的)(家)(大概)(就)(不)(會)(太)(乾淨)(了)。

……(ㄙㄨㄛˊ ㄧˇ) (ㄨㄛˇ ㄉㄜ˙) (ㄐㄧㄚ) (ㄉㄚˋ ㄍㄞˋ) (ㄅㄨˊ) (ㄏㄨㄟˋ)

(ㄊㄞˋ) (ㄍㄢ ㄐㄧㄥˋ) (ㄌㄜ˙)

……(suó yǐ)(wǒ de.)(jiā)(dà gài)(bú)(hùi)(tài)(gān jìng)(le.)

……(therefore, consequently)(my)(house)(probably)(not)(will)(too)(clean)(emphasize completion)

However, I only think/want to spend time in the garden, consequently my house probably will not be too clean.

 

有時候我的小狗忙著咬啃很多東西,然後,我只要牠能小睡就好了!

(有時候)(我的)(小狗)(忙)(著)(咬啃)(很)(多)(東西),

(ㄧㄡˇ ㄕˊ ㄏㄡˋ) (ㄨㄛˇ ㄉㄜ˙) (ㄒㄧㄠˊ ㄍㄡˇ)❶ (ㄇㄤˊ ㄓㄜ˙) (ㄧㄠˊ ㄎㄣˇ)❶ (ㄏㄣˇ) (ㄉㄨㄛ) (ㄉㄨㄥ ㄒㄧ)

(yǒu shí hòu)(wǒ de.)(xiáo gǒu)(máng zhe.)(yáo kěn)(hěn)(duō)(dōng xī)

(sometimes)(my)(small + dog = puppy)(occupied with/doing)(chew)(very)(many)(things/objects)

…..(然後),(我)(只)(要)(牠)(牠)(能)(小睡)(就)(好)(了)!

……(ㄖㄢˊ ㄏㄡˋ), (ㄨㄛˇ) (ㄓˇ) (ㄧㄠˋ) (ㄊㄚ) (ㄋㄥˊ) (ㄒㄧㄠˇ ㄕㄨㄟˋ)          (ㄐㄧㄡˋ) (ㄏㄠˇ) (ㄌㄜ˙)

……(rán hòu), (wǒ)(zhǐ)(yào)(tā)(néng)(xiǎo shùi)(jiù)(hǎo)(le.)

……(then), (I)(only)(to want)(it)(can possibly)(small + sleep = nap)(exactly)(good)(emphasis)

Sometimes my puppy chews many things, then I only want it to take a nap. That would be just right!

 

我只是一個人,所以不可能做完所有我要做的事情。

(我)(只)(是)(一個)(人),(所以)(不)(可能)

(ㄨㄛˇ) (ㄓˇ) (ㄕˋ) (ㄧ ㄍㄜ˙) (ㄖㄣˊ), (ㄙㄨㄛ ㄧˇ) (ㄅㄨˋ) (ㄎㄜˇ ㄋㄥˊ)

(wǒ)(zhǐ)(shì)(yī ge.)(rén), (suó yǐ)(bù)(kě néng)

(I)(only)(to be/am)(one +MW❷ for person)(person), (so)(not)(able)

…..(做完)(所有)(我)(要)(做)(的)(事情)。

……(ㄗㄨㄛˋ ㄨㄢˊ) (ㄙㄨㄛˊ ㄧㄡˇ) (ㄨㄛˇ) (ㄧㄠˋ) (ㄗㄨㄛˋ) (ㄉㄜ˙)                   (ㄕˋ ㄑㄧㄥˊ)

……(zuò wán)(suó yǒu)(wǒ)(yào)(zuò)(de.)(shì qíng)

……(to finish)(all)(I)(to want)(to do)(adjective maker)(things, matters, affairs)

I am only one person, so I am not able to finish all the things I want to do.

 

我告訴自己牠只是一隻小狗的時間很短,

(我)(告訴)(自己)(牠)(只)(是)

(ㄨㄛˇ) (ㄍㄠˋ ㄙㄨˋ) (ㄗˋ ㄐㄧˇ) (ㄊㄚ) (ㄓˇ) (ㄕˋ)

(wǒ)(gào sù)(zì jǐ)(tā)(zhǐ)(shì)

(I)(to tell)(oneself, myself)(it)(only)(to be)

…..(一隻)(小狗)(的)(時間)(很)(短),

……(ㄧ ㄓ) (ㄒㄧㄠˊㄍㄡˇ) (ㄉㄜ˙) (ㄕˊ ㄐㄧㄢ) (ㄏㄣˇ) (ㄉㄨㄢˇ)

……(yī zhī)(xiáo gǒu)(de.)(shí jiān)(hěn)(duǎn)

……(one + MW for dog)(small dog = puppy)(adjective marker)(time)(very)(short)

I tell myself it is only going to be a puppy for a short time,

 

很快地牠會越來越長大了。

(很)(快)(地)(牠)(會)[(越來越)(長大)](了)

(ㄏㄣˇ) (ㄎㄨㄞˋ) (ㄉㄜ˙) (ㄊㄚ) (ㄏㄨㄟˋ)                                                                                                                [(ㄩㄝˋ ㄌㄞˊ ㄩㄝˊ) (ㄓㄤˇ ㄉㄚˋ)] (ㄌㄜ˙)

(hěn)(kuài)(de.)(tā)(huì)[(yuè lái yuè)(zhǎng dà)](le.)

(very)(fast, quick)(-ly)(it)(will)[(more and more)(grow)](emphasize completion)

Very quickly it will grow bigger and bigger.

 

所以我得放鬆自己,不要常常太緊張

(所以)(我)(得)(放鬆)(自己),

(ㄙㄨㄛˊ ㄧˇ) (ㄨㄛˇ) (ㄉㄟˇ) (ㄈㄤˋ ㄙㄨㄥ) (ㄗˋ ㄐㄧˇ)

(suó yǐ)(wǒ)(děi)(fàng sōng)(zì jǐ)

(therefore)(I)(must)(relax)(myself)

…..(不)(要)(常常)(太)(緊張)

……(ㄅㄨˊ) (ㄧㄠˋ) (ㄔㄤˊ ㄔㄤˊ) (ㄊㄞˋ) (ㄐㄧㄣˇ ㄓㄤ)

……(bú)(yào)(cháng cháng)(tài)(jǐn zhāng)

……(not)(to want)(often)(too)(nervous)

Therefore, I must relax; I don’t want to be too nervous all the time.

 

有時候牠想牠是人,牠要跟每個人一樣的有很多愛。

(有時候)(牠)(想)(牠)(是)(人),

(ㄧㄡˇ ㄕˊ ㄏㄡˋ) (ㄊㄚ) (ㄒㄧㄤˇ) (ㄊㄚ) (ㄕˋ) (ㄖㄣˊ)

(yǒu shí hòu)(tā)(xiǎng)(tā)(shì)(rén)
(sometimes)(it)(to think)(it)(to be/is)(person/people)

…..(牠)(要)(跟)(每個人)(一樣的)(有)(很)(多)(愛)。

……(ㄊㄚ) (ㄧㄠˋ) (ㄍㄣ) (ㄇㄟˇ ㄍㄜ˙ ㄖㄣˊ) (ㄧ ㄧㄤˋ ㄉㄜ˙) (ㄧㄡˇ)                                               (ㄏㄣˇ) (ㄉㄨㄛ) (ㄞˋ)

……(tā)(yào)(gēn)(měi ge. rén)(yī yàng de.)(yǒu)(hěn)(duō)(ài)

……(it)(to want)(with, as)(every + MW for people + person= everyone)(one + way = like, the same)(to have)(very)(much)(love)

Sometimes it thinks it is a person, it wants a lot of love like everyone does.

 

我只要吹笛子牠就試試看唱歌!

(我)(只要)❸(吹)(笛子)(牠)(就)(試試看)(唱)(歌)

(ㄨㄛˇ) (ㄓˇ ㄧㄠˋ) (ㄔㄨㄟ) (ㄉㄧˊ ㄗ˙) (ㄊㄚ) (ㄐㄧㄡˋ) (ㄕˋ ㄕˋ ㄎㄢˋ) (ㄔㄤˋ) (ㄍㄜ)

(wǒ)(zhǐ yào)(chuī)(dí zi.)(tā)(jiù)(shì shì kàn)(chàng)(gē)

(I)(and while)(to blow/to play)(flute)(it)(at once)(to try)(to sing)(song)

And while I play my flute, it tries to sing!

 

有些人可能想牠唱得太吵鬧了。

(有)(些)(人)(可能)(想)(牠)(唱)(得)(太)(吵鬧)(了)

(ㄧㄡˇ) (ㄒㄧㄝ) (ㄖㄣˊ) (ㄎㄜˇ ㄋㄥˊ) (ㄒㄧㄤˇ) (ㄊㄚ) (ㄔㄤˋ) (ㄉㄜ˙)                                      (ㄊㄞˋ) (ㄔㄠˇ ㄋㄠˋ) (ㄌㄜ˙)

(yǒu)(xiē)(rén)(kě néng)(xiǎng)(tā)(chàng)(de.)(tài)(chǎo nào)(le.)

(to have)(some)(people)(maybe)(to think)(it)(to sing)(conjunction to adverb)(too)(noisy)(emphasize)

Some people might think its singing is too noisy.

 

其實牠只是要他們知道牠快樂!

(其實)(牠)(只是要)(他們)(知道)(牠)(快樂)

(ㄑㄧˊ ㄕˊ) (ㄊㄚ) (ㄓˇ ㄕˋ ㄧㄠˋ) (ㄊㄚ ㄇㄣ˙) (ㄓ ㄉㄠˋ) (ㄊㄚ) (ㄎㄨㄞˋ ㄌㄜˋ)

(qí shí)(tā)(zhǐ shì yào)(tā men.)(zhī dào)(tā)(kuài lè)

(actually)(it)(all to want is)(them)(to know)(it)(happy)

Actually, it just wants them to know is it is happy!

 

Here is some specific vocabulary from those sentences, and a couple other sentences:

緊張                ㄐㄧㄣˇ ㄓㄤ           (jǐn zhāng)    nervous, strained, tense

咬啃                ㄧㄠˊ ㄎㄣˇ             (yáo kěn)       bite and gnaw

啃咬                ㄎㄣˊ ㄧㄠˇ             (kén yǎo)       gnaw and bite❹

乾淨                 ㄍㄢ ㄐㄧㄥˋ          (gān jìng)      clean, neat

我只想            ㄨㄛˇ ㄓˊ ㄒㄧㄤˇ  (wǒ zhí xiǎng)   I only think/want to

我只是想     ㄨㄛˇ ㄓˇ ㄕˋ ㄒㄧㄤˇ (wǒ zhǐ shì xiǎng)  all I want is

我只想要     ㄨㄛˇ ㄓˊ ㄒㄧㄤˇ ㄧㄠˋ (wǒ zhí xiǎng yào)  I only think I want

只是                ㄓˇ ㄕˋ                       (zhǐ shì)             only is/am

只要                ㄓˇ ㄧㄠˋ                   (zhǐ yào)             only want

 

我只是一個老師。

(我)(只是)(一個)(老師)

(ㄨㄛˇ) (ㄓˇ ㄕˋ) (ㄧ ㄍㄜ˙) (ㄌㄠˇ ㄕ)

(wǒ)(zhǐ shì)(yī ge.)(lǎo shī)

(I)(am only)(a/one)(teacher)

I am only a teacher.

 

牠只是一隻狗。

(牠)(只是)(一隻)(狗)

(ㄊㄚ) (ㄓˇ ㄕˋ) (ㄧ ㄓ) (ㄍㄡˇ)

(tā)(zhǐ shì)(yī zhī)(gǒu)

(it)(is only)(a/one)(dog)

It is only a dog.

 

我只要他。

(我)(只)(要)(他)

(ㄨㄛˇ) (ㄓˇ)(ㄧㄠˋ) (ㄊㄚ)

(wǒ)(zhǐ)(yào)(tā)

(I)(only)(to want)(him)

I only want him.

 

我只想要跟我的朋友在一起。

(我)(只想要)(跟)(我的)(朋友)(在)(一起)

(ㄨㄛˇ) (ㄓˊ ㄒㄧㄤˇ ㄧㄠˋ) (ㄍㄣ) (ㄨㄛˇ ㄉㄜ˙) (ㄆㄥˊ ㄧㄡˇ) (ㄗㄞˋ) (ㄧ ㄑㄧˇ)

(wǒ)(zhí xiǎng yào)(gēn)(wǒ de.)(péng yǒu)(zài)(yī qǐ)

(I)(only want)(with)(my)(friend)(at)(together)

I just want to be with my friends.

 

我只是想要

(我)(只是想要)

(ㄨㄛˇ) (ㄓˇ ㄕˋ ㄒㄧㄤˇ ㄧㄠˋ)

(wǒ)(zhǐ shì xiǎng yào)

(I)(only is want)

all I want is…

 

我只有兩頂帽子。

(我)(只有)(兩頂)❺(帽子)

(ㄨㄛˇ) (ㄓˊ ㄧㄡˇ) (ㄌㄧㄤˊ ㄉㄧㄥˇ) (ㄇㄠˋ ㄗ˙)

(wǒ)(zhí yǒu)(liáng dǐng)(mào zi.)

(I)(only have)(two + MW for hats)(hat)

I only have two hats.

 

我只是要你知道我愛你。

(我)(只是要)❻(你)(知道)(我)(愛)(你)

(ㄨㄛˇ) (ㄓˇ ㄕˋ ㄧㄠˋ) (ㄋㄧˇ) (ㄓ ㄉㄠˋ) (ㄨㄛˇ) (ㄞˋ) (ㄋㄧˇ)

(wǒ)(zhǐ shì yào)(nǐ)(zhī dào)(wǒ)(ài)(nǐ)

(I)(all want is)(you)(to know)(I)(to love)(you)

All I want is for you to know that I love you.

 

我只有一百塊,你呢?

(我)(只有)(一百)(塊)。(你呢)

(ㄨㄛˇ) (ㄓˊ ㄧㄡˇ) (ㄧ ㄅㄞˇ) (ㄎㄨㄞˋ),(ㄋㄧˇ ㄋㄜ˙)

(wǒ)(zhí yǒu)(yī bǎi)(kuài),(nǐ ne.)

(I)(only have)(one hundred)(pieces – implying money, dollars),(and you?)

I only have a hundred dollars; what about you?

 

 

只有我跟Boo 在家。

(只有)(我)(跟)(Boo)(在)(家)

(ㄓˊ ㄧㄡˇ) (ㄨㄛˇ) (ㄍㄣ) (Boo) (ㄗㄞˋ) (ㄐㄧㄚ)

(zhí yǒu)(wǒ)(gēn)(Boo, my puppy’s name)(zài)(jiā)

(only have)(I)(with)(Boo)(at)(home)

Only Boo and I are at home. or I only have Boo with me at home.

 


Notes:

❶ Although 只 ㄓˇ (zhǐ) technically has a third tone, recall that a third tone right before another third tone is changed to a second tone.

❷ MW is a common abbreviation for “measure word”. Measure words are used before nouns much like we use words like a “herd” of cows or a “wad” of gum. Chinese measure words are used with almost every noun, whether singular or plural. They usually are partially descriptive of the noun, indicating things like length or size. When in doubt, you can sometimes get away with using the most common measure word 個 ㄍㄜ˙ (ge.) I have a this Chinese Measure Word Dictionary and I find it quite handy.

❸ 只要  ㄓˇ ㄧㄠˋ (zhǐ yào) has a lot of different, but similar meanings. It can mean “as” , “as long as”, “if only”, “only if”, “and while”, “only want”, or “in this situation or on condition that.” It is really a matter of context to know how to translate.

❹ In most cases, the order of the Chinese characters makes an important difference, but not with this word.

❺ It is useful to notice that the MW for hats is the same character used in a lot of word (character combinations) that have to do with roof, such as 房頂  ㄈㄤˊ ㄉㄧㄥˇ (fáng dǐng) “housetop/roof”

❻ This combination is specifically used when referring to a condition that already exists.