A lot of times I have wondered which one would be correct to use. Can anyone explain their difference?

For example, 보고 싶다 means I miss you, and clearly we cannot use 려고 here.

But there must be some special rule or idea which could give a right intuition to know when to use which.

  • 보고 싶다 literally means "want to see" and 보려고 means "(in order) to see." On what points do you think they are similar?
    – Klmo
    Commented Oct 9, 2019 at 10:20
  • for example we may say "I want to order pizza" and in this case we can use 려고 but not 싶다. as you can see, "want" is translated into Korean differently depending on the context.
    – eugen
    Commented Oct 9, 2019 at 11:21
  • "피자 주문하고 싶어" (I want to order pizza) uses 싶다 not 려고. 려고 is not a verb or adjective whereas 싶다 is an adjective that ends a sentence. 려고 하다 may be compared with 고 싶다. "피자 주문하려고 해" could be translated as "I am going to order pizza."
    – Klmo
    Commented Oct 9, 2019 at 12:00
  • yes, this later case is exactly what I wanted to ask. so do you think "피자 주문하고 싶어" is same or similar with "피자 주문하려고 해" ? If they differ in what sense and when one is more appropriate than the other.
    – eugen
    Commented Oct 9, 2019 at 14:52
  • The former is a generic desire ("I want to order pizza"), while the latter is stronger with high chance of carrying out said action ("I am going to order pizza"). "려고" has two different usages (as Kimo described, "려고 + verb" shows one's intention for the action, while "려고 하다" indicates what one is going to do). Commented Oct 9, 2019 at 14:54

1 Answer 1


Maybe dictionaries are confusing you. These definitions are what I have found in 한국어기초사전:

  • For -으려고 하다, -으려 하다, -려고 하다, and -려 하다 (Let's just say -려고 하다 from here), 하다 is an auxiliary verb used to indicate that one is attempting or intends to do an action in the preceding statement.

  • For -고 싶다, 싶다 is an auxiliary adjective used to indicate that the speaker has an intention or desire to do what the preceding statement describes.

These definitions are incomplete because of the following:

  1. They mention the speaker for -고 싶다; it actually means that the subject of a declarative sentence that ends with -고 싶다 must be the first person. Interrogative sentences, however, usually require the second person to be the subject. -고 싶어 하다 is used for the second- or third-person subject of a declarative sentence. (There are exceptions, but I will not put them here.)

(는) 오늘 너를 보고 싶어. (I want to see you today.)

(는) 오늘 뭐 하고 싶어? (What do you want to do today?)

걔가 나가 놀고 싶어 해. (She/He wants to play outside.)

  1. -려고 하다 also means to be about to ...

아기가 울려고 한다. (The baby is about to cry.)

건물이 무너지려고 한다. (The building is about to collapse.)

  1. -고 싶다 shows a desire to do an action; the preceding statement of -려고 하다 relates to something one has decided to do and what one is going to do or try. Therefore, these two sentences are different:

(나는) 너를 보고 싶어. (I want to see you.)

(나는) 너를 보려고 해. (I am going/trying to see you.)

The former shows that the speaker hopes to see "you." Whether it is possible for you to see someone or whether you are on the way to someone's location at the moment, you can say "보고 싶어." For the latter, the speaker made up her/his mind to see "you" and she/he will start (or started) to look for "you." Depending on the situation, the latter sentence could frighten or please the listener. Now, let's look at other sentences:

(나는) 피자 주문하고 싶어. (I want to order pizza.)

(나는) 피자 주문하려고 해. (I am going/about to order pizza.)

The former expresses only what the speaker's desire is. She/he may not do anything about it; she/he may want someone else to order it. The latter indicates that the speaker decided to order pizza and will do it if there is no objection/change to her/his decision.

If it is still too difficult for you to understand the differences, please bring your examples and edit your question.

  • thanks your explanation has been really helpful and now I am pretty sure what I need to say next time I am ordering a pizza :)
    – eugen
    Commented Oct 10, 2019 at 6:49

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