My students always tell me that they get confused about “想xiǎng” and”要yào”. Well, it’s difficult to tell the difference. But there is a way.I hope this article can help you.
“想xiǎng” and”要yào”，as modal verbs, both mean “want/intend to do ”.However, the differences are:
1. In meaning: ”要yào” is more determined than “想xiǎng”.
2. In structure:
”要yào”, meaning want, can be followed by either an object or a verbal phrase.
As a verb 我要这个。Wǒ yào zhège.(a direct object)
As a modal verb 我要跟他们一起去中国。(a verbal phrase)
Wǒ yào gēn tāmen yìqǐ qù zhōngguó.
“想xiǎng” can only followed directly by a verbal phrase.
As a modal verb 我想跟朋友去看电影。(a verbal phrase)
Wǒ xiǎng gēn péngyou qù kàn diànyǐng.
When“想xiǎng” is followed directly by an object, it means “miss”.
As a verb 我想我的家。Wǒ xiǎng Wǒde jiā(a direct object)