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Verb る-form + そう indicates hearsay.

'I hear he will go home.'
帰らないそうだ [Negative]

Verb masu stem (i.e. conjunctive form 連用形) + そう shows information obtained through the senses, observation:

'It looks like he will go home.'
帰らなさそう [Negative]

With this, how do you achieve past tense?

For "hearsay", do you say:

' I heard he went home.'

Whilst for "observation", do you say:

'It looked like he went home.'

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I think you already got both right. – Lukman Aug 18 '11 at 12:54
up vote 11 down vote accepted

As Lukman pointed out, you got conjugations right. However, I am not sure if you interpreted 帰りそうだった accurately. In 帰りそうだった, the observation was made before the person went home. So in English, it is something like “It looked like he was going to go home.”

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