How many times have we felt that the food from a restaurant looks delicious? Or met someone new and they looked younger than they actually were? It’s such a natural thought that we don’t think twice when we form the sentence.
Now, how do we say that in Japanese? In our Season 2 Episode 4 of our Nihongo Master Podcast, we took a look at how to express that something looks or seems like something, as part of our language series Study Saturday.
Just like how we can express one thought in more than a few ways in English, it’s the same in Japanese. In that episode, We ran through the various “it looks like” grammar with its usage, and practiced the new grammar a with a few role-playing scenarios.
This article will be a summary of what we discussed in the podcast episode. While we’ll highlight the grammar points and summarized the vocabulary words we used, the example situations and scenarios are excluded from this post. You’ve got to tune it to the full episode to know more!
1. ~sou (〜そう)
The first grammar point we looked at is “~sou” (〜そう). We started off with the most basic one. When you have something new happening before you, you would already have a judgement in mind: “it looks delicious” for food, “it looks beautiful” for the dress, and “it looks like it’s going to rain” for the weather.
If you’re guessing an outcome, you can use the grammar point ~sou and attach it at the end of the sentence. If the end of the sentence is an i-adjective, you take out the い at the end and add the そう. For example:
“The food looks delicious.”
If it’s a na-adjective, take out the な and replace it with そう:
“The dress looks beautiful.”
If it’s the negative form, change it to the negative form first before switching the い out for さ before adding the grammar point:
“The food doesn’t look delicious.”
“The dress doesn’t look beautiful.”
You’re thinking, how do we use it for verbs then? All we got to do is take any verb’s stem form and then add the grammar point:
“It looks like it’s going to rain.”
2. ~mitai (〜みたい)
The previous grammar point doesn’t attach to nouns, however. But there’s another grammar point to use in place of it, and that’s ~mitai (〜みたい):
“Looks like a student.”
This grammar point can not only be used with nouns but also verbs and adjectives as well — no changes to any of their root forms whatsoever:
“It looks like it’s going to rain.”
There is a difference in nuance with mitai, however. Sou is just a guess of outcome, whereas mitai is basically saying, “it looks like that, but it’s actually not.” So “ame ga furisou” is saying that you’re guessing it’s going to rain, whereas “ame ga furu mitai” says that it looks like it might rain, but it’s not going to.
3. ~you da (〜ようだ)
Remember the sentence “gakusei mitai”? It implies that he looks like a student but is actually not. We can sometimes switch out mitai with ~you da (ようだ), Now, with this grammar point, it’s stating matter-of-factly what it looks like.
“It looks like he’s a student.” (Rather than “he looks like a student”.)
We add the particle の for nouns and na-adjectives only; i-adjectives and verbs remain as it is.
4. ~ppoi (〜っぽい)
“It looks like” can also be figurative. Say you want to describe your friend as childish. In Japanese, it translates to “looks like a child” or “childlike”. The grammar we use for it is ~ppoi (〜っぽい):
5. ~rashii (〜らしい)
The previous grammar point is interchangeable with another grammar point: ~rashii (らしい)…most of the time.
If you switch the ~ppoi with ~rashii for kodomo to make 子供らしい, it’s a whole different meaning — kodomoppoi implies that one is similar or acts like a child (and can refer to someone who is not actually a kid), whereas kodomorashii has to always talk about a child, and that he has the characteristics of a child — lively, active and all.
Here’s another example:
“He looks like an adult, but he may not be.”
Otonappoi (大人っぽい) implies that someone who looks or acts like an adult.
“He looks like an adult because of the characteristics.”
Otonarashii (大人らしい) is someone who has the characteristics of an adult — grown-up and matured.
In our podcast episode, we had roleplaying scenarios in Japanese, so we introduced a lot of new words. Here’s a recap of them:
Oishii (美味しい) — delicious
Wanpisu (ワンピス) — dress, you can also use the katakana form doresu, but that refers to fancy dresses
Kireina (綺麗な) — beautiful
Furu (降る) — to pour
Kodomo (子供) — child
Otona (大人) — adult
Genki (元気) — happy
Niatteru (似合ってる) — to suit (an outfit)
Ureshii (嬉しい) — happy
Kutsu (くつ) — shoes
Haku (はく) — to put on
Onaka ga ippai (お腹がいっぱい) — to be full (not hungry)
Tsukuru (作る) — to make
Umai (うまい) — delicious
Tsukiau (付き合う) — to go out with
Wareru (割れる) — to break (it can also be used to mean, to break up with someone)
Shokuji (食事) — meal
Joudan (冗談) — joke
Let’s list what we have just looked at:
~sou is used for guessing an outcome, usually based on what you personally think ~mitai is used to say it looks like something, but usually isn’t
~you da is saying it looks like something based on the situation
~ppoi is used to say it’s kind of like something
~rashii is used to refer to having the characteristics of something
Now you’re a pro at expressing your thoughts on how something looks in more than one way — five, to be exact! And as you can see, these grammar points can be used in various situations to pass judgements about everything under the sun!
Check out Nihongo Master Podcast Season 2 Episode 4 for the full episode to this grammar point, and tune in every Saturday for new episodes of our language series!