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雨が降りそうです

雨が降るみたいです

Is there any difference between the two? Which one would be the most common way to say this?

このセーターは家で洗えそうです

このセーターは家で洗えるみたいです

Both these also seem valid, but imo the second one sounds a bit more awkward. Can I take away from this that ~そう is used for general impression and ~みたい for more visual impression?

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We also say 雨が降「る」そうです・雨が降るらしい(です)・雨が降るようです... so confusing –  Chocolate Mar 31 '12 at 9:12
    
It is my understanding that 雨が降るそうです would mean "I hear that it will rain" and not "I seems like it will rain" like my examples. The rest I just haven't lerned yet and can't comment on. –  gibbon Mar 31 '12 at 9:20
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雨が降るみたいです is a colloquial version of 雨が降るそうです, not 雨が降りそうです, no...? Because I don't think we'd say 雨が降るみたいです when seeing dark clouds in the sky... –  Chocolate Mar 31 '12 at 14:46
    
BTW ~~みたい sounds more colloquial than ~~そう. –  Chocolate Mar 31 '12 at 14:52
    
@Chocolate, thx for the btw there. According to my text book (genki 2) at least, 雨が降りそうです would be more or less the same as 雨が降るみたいです (seeing dark clouds), whether actually used or not, and 雨が降るそうです would imply that I for instance heard it on the weather forecast. –  gibbon Mar 31 '12 at 18:02
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1 Answer

雨が降りそうです Means specifically that you think it is going to rain based on your own observation. Also take note that if you said 降るそうです the meaning would be slightly different.

雨が降るみたいです Includes the above meaning, but also could mean that you heard it will rain, or suspect it might rain for some other reason. みたい is a very broad term.

As for the second part of your question

このセーターは家で洗えるみたいです Would mean that you think you could wash it at home. This is a good way to say this.

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