How do these two differ, for example:

寂しそう vs 寂しげ

楽しそう vs 楽しげ

言いたそう vs 言いたげ

大人げ vs 大人っぽい(...? Not sure if this one works.)


2 Answers 2


They are the same ("seems like") but 〜げ has more of a connotation of 「それらしい」 or 「っぽい」with the げ coming from the character 気 as in 気分. I remember it as "that sort of feeling".

Arguably this makes 〜げ more subjective whereas 〜そう is more objective but only so far as the observation is shared with others in the same/similar view point as the speaker.

A word about usage:- You commonly use 〜げ when expressing your feelings. It comes from the kanji 気, so this serves as a reminder. It matters "what" you are talking about, not just that an adjective comes before it.

Examples revised:-

So observing the rule about expressing your feelings.

1A. 寂しそうな顔をしている = OK (with a lonely face)
1B. 寂しげな顔をしている = OK

2A. 楽しそうな雰囲気 = OK (seemingly enjoyable atmosphere)
2B. 楽しげな雰囲気 = OK

3A. 言いたそう = OK (with a desire to say ...)
3B. 言いたげ = OK (NB: this is common, but not widely used with other verbs)

4A. 大人っぽい = OK
4B. 大人げ = (corrected: this is ok as in 大人がある or 大人げない or

Alternatively these can be followed by に, as in 言いたげに見ている (looking with an expression of wanting to say something).

Origins:- Apparently this word has been around for sometime in certain parts of Japan (Ref: http://otasuke.goo-net.com/qa5447963.html?order=DESC&by=datetime > Answer 2), but some consider it to be 若者言葉 that is making the transition to accepted vocabulary (Ref: http://ja.wikipedia.org/wiki/%E8%8B%A5%E8%80%85%E8%A8%80%E8%91%890 + own experience)

  • 1
    Thank you for the answer. In regards to 3B and 4B not being good, I did a quick google search and found these examples: 「猫が何か言いたげな時」and 「何か言いたげな猫」. Additionally, 大人げがない/大人げない came up too. Would these be referring to a "feeling". As in the speaker believes that they "don't /feel/ like an adult" or "when it /feels/ like the cat wants to say something"?
    – phirru
    Commented Jun 21, 2011 at 10:47
  • True dat, I'll fix the example. I just confirmed it with a native speaker too. I found 大人げない before but thought it unrelated. It is and I've fixed it above. However, words like 子供げ apparently don't exist, although there are some references to it on the net. I get the feeling 〜げ is not universally applicable, but it's use and application are growing.
    – crunchyt
    Commented Jun 21, 2011 at 10:54
  • 2
    To answer your question, not really. The feeling belongs to the speaker not the subject. 大人げない could be translated as "no sign of being adult like" and 言いたげな猫 as "a cat that seems to want to say something". The reading げ comes from 気 as in 気配 (けはい) meaning 'sign or indication'. Easier to remember that way.
    – crunchyt
    Commented Jun 21, 2011 at 12:09
  • 1
    「大人気」 is usually translated as "maturity". Commented Jun 21, 2011 at 12:36
  • @Ignacio, I read that as dai-ninki -- haha :D you are indeed correct, I was being literal.
    – crunchyt
    Commented Jun 21, 2011 at 14:13

Well, basically ADJ-I's radical + げ means some sort of "with adj-as-a-noun"; it turns your adjective into a noun, expresses appearance. To make myself clear, let's see a few examples taken from the net:

A bar in Roppongi with a somehow different enjoyable atmosphere

the artists walking the red carpet sigh with a sad look.

Even though I've never encountered it, I infer that "言いたげ" means "with the apparent wish to say" (since the base was "言いたい", "I want to say"). In both cases, this is clearly something that you are observing. I think that you will mostly encounter げ+に or げ+な.

そう, on the other hand, is trickier. It's either your impression, or something you've heard.

Tomorrow, it will rain (according to the weather forecast I heard)

Tomorrow, it looks like it is going to rain (that's my feeling, I might be wrong).

He seems happy, he's happy.

I heard he's happy.


I think he's trying to say something. (nota: I don't think it's natural, I have almost never heard this kind of sentence).

I heard he wants to say something.

For the last one, I'd say it doesn't work, since you're working with a noun. And appearance or hearsays with nouns is another topic…

  • Thank you! I also hadn't heard "言いたそう", however, putting it into Google comes up with a lot of examples "何か言いたそうだった". So that seems to indicate that it is used more than I thought. I added the 大人げ because I saw a few examples like 大人げがない, however maybe this is just a set phrase, some sort of abnormality.
    – phirru
    Commented Jun 21, 2011 at 10:53

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