Here are the example sentences.




Firstly, what does デイビット mean as based on reading alone its sounds like 'debit' to me which is a strange name to have.

Secondly, all three of these grammar points have a similar meaning of 'looks' or 'seems' but obviously have nuanced differences and different uses. As far as I do know, そうです is used more for a first impression 'looks' or 'seems' than the other two but I could be wrong.

  • デイビット means the name David. Maybe you should remove the paragraph beginning with "Firstly,...". Commented Jun 6, 2014 at 15:22
  • 1
    The /dd/ → /tt/ geminate devoicing is common in loanwords that contain other voiced obstruents (the /b/ and initial /d/ in this case). Compare ベッド → ベット but not ヘッド → *ヘット. (See Nishimura 2003 Lyman's Law in Loanwords.) This is unrelated to your main question, though.
    – user1478
    Commented Jun 6, 2014 at 20:10

5 Answers 5


デイビット is actually David.

  • そうです indicates a similarity based on direct (probably visual) evidence i.e., David appears/behaves like a good chef based on what you see. In this usage, そう is attached to the i-form of verbs and stem of adjectives.

  • (だ)そうです is a report on what you've heard before. In this usage, そう is attached to the dictionary form of verbs, directly to i-adjectives, and with a だ behind na-adjectives.

  • ようです like the first そう, indicates an appearance you are directly observing, but more certain - a higher likelihood - than そうです. That is, David looks like he is good at cooking based on how you're seeing him cook. よう is attached to nouns and na-adjectives with a の in between.

  • らしいです indicates its something inferred from indirect evidence. In other words, David seems to be good at cooking (based on what you're heard).

Note that ようです can also be a somewhat non-committal observation. And らしいです (or more accurately, just らしい) can be used to describe an attribute, similar to using -like in English. e.g, 名探偵らしい -> detective-like, like a good detective, in a good-detectively sort of way. I hope that makes sense :p


This is not based on any reliable sources or textbooks, but is my personal impression.

  1. デイビットは料理が上手そうです。

    Direct and active estimation, impression, or judgement by the speaker, based on his (David's) appearance, his way of speaking, rumors of him, etc. "I suppose David is good at cooking." "Seemingly David must be good at cooking."

  2. デイビットは料理が上手なようです。

    This is used to avoid assertive tones, or express weaker guessing than the first, not necessarily supported by good reasons active judgement of the speaker. It can also be used to repeat information by someone else, just like the third one. "Sounds like David is good at cooking." "I guess David is good at cooking." "They say David is good at cooking." (under certain context)

    (The degree of confidence is not really different between 1. and 2.)

    = David looks good at cooking, but the reality seems to be that he's not good at it.

    = (judging from its cover, etc.) This book looks interesting.

    = They say this book is interesting (in a review article, etc.)

  3. デイビットは料理が上手らしいです。

    There is no guessing of the speaker at all. "I heard David is good at cooking." "They say David is good at cooking."

Note that デイビットは料理が上手だそうです is not the same as the first one, but it's pretty much like the third one (They say ~).

この敵は強そうだ = this enemy must be strong; この敵は強いそうだ = they say this enemy is strong.

  • While I really like this answer (especially the ~だそうです note at the end, this is new to me), I have been thinking of ~そうです and ~ようです the opposite way; that is to say that ようです is more strongly evidenced than そうです, therefore making そうです the weaker assertion of the two. When I was taught these grammar points そうです was said to be based on something you've heard or seen (limited to sight or sound), while ようです is based on all of the senses. In this case, you may say 「デイビットは料理が上手なようです。」 after seeing/hearing him cook AND smelling/tasting the food itself... Is my understanding backwards here?
    – mousouchop
    Commented Jun 6, 2014 at 17:03
  • Let's say you're playing a game and encountered an unknown enemy. You can say この敵は強そうだ, judging from its appearance. Saying この敵は強いようだ is OK, but sounds like as if you were reading a wiki page about the enemy. That's the difference. At first, in the former form, I felt you're estimating the strength of the enemy more "directly", exerting your sense of vision and hearing. However, as you pointed out, the latter form may be more strongly "evidenced" guessing, than judgement only by its appearance. Maybe it's not the matter of the strength of guessing, but is the matter of how you guess.
    – naruto
    Commented Jun 6, 2014 at 17:40
  • I edited my answer in the wake of the indication from @mousouchop.
    – naruto
    Commented Jun 6, 2014 at 18:14
  • +1 I like the note on level of confidence not being a defining difference between the two forms, but instead the level of judgement being used in making the statement (active/direct vs indirect); This seems to make sense to me. In the case of ~ようです, I imagine one could use this if for instance they can smell David's cooking from the living room, but aren't actively observing him in the act of cooking?
    – mousouchop
    Commented Jun 6, 2014 at 19:12
  • @naruto May I ask for your assistance to clarify the validity of the answer that I found?
    – Dekiru
    Commented Jul 5, 2017 at 15:54

Not a native speaker, so please correct me if I am mistaken about something

Using the example of rain, here is what I would gloss these various sentences as:

  • 雨が降りそうです
    = [Looking at the cloudy sky] It looks like it might rain [and this affects me]

  • 雨が降るそうです
    = [Someone told me/I read that/I overheard that] It is going to rain

  • 雨のようです
    =[Looking at the cloudy sky] It seems like it might rain today [but it might just feel like a rainy day]

  • 雨が降るようです
    =[I have some reason to believe that] It might rain today

  • 雨が降るみたいです
    = [Looking at the cloudy sky] Huh. Looks like it might rain [though it doesn't really affect me]

  • 雨が降るらしいです
    = [I heard that/read that] It is going to rain [and I believe this to be the case]

In other words, 〜だそうです and 〜らしいです indicate hearsay or indirect information (someone made an observation/prediction/guess, that you are passing along), though 〜らしいです has a bit of a 〜はずです vibe (i.e. you believe this information, or trust its source), whereas 〜だそうです might just mean someone said it would, not that you believe or disbelieve that.

〜そうです and 〜みたいです both indicate your own personal observation, which suggests it is a visual observation but doesn't have to be. 〜そう slightly suggests that you are not merely making an observation like "that car is green," but that the information has some significance to you, or that whether it is true or not affects you in some way.

〜のよう and 〜Xするよう both imply an impression, as in 〜のような/に, but 雨が降るようです implies that you have decided, based on that impression, that it is possibly going to rain; 雨のような日 might just be a very cloudy day that feels like a rainy day, whereas 雨が降るような日 is a day that feels at any minute like it might start raining.


This question has already been answered. But anyway I'll still post the answer I found from a site by Magamo that I personally find the most helpful. I hope it may provide additional information for those who are still confused despite reading the answers... like me.

"But I don't think this kind of explanation would help understand the difference between そうだ and ようだ. So I'll post a wacky explanation from the view point of what's going on in native speakers' minds.

Your textbooks may explain the difference by showing the difference in reasoning etc., but that can never be accurate. The actual difference between non-hearsay そうだ and そうだ-like ようだ lies in the psychological distance between you and the event, appearance, or other kinds of thing you're mentioning. When you use そうだ, you're psychologically/emotionally tied to the thing/event/situation/whatever and often you're picturing an imaginary world where X in Xそうだ is true and you're standing there in your mind. You might be in an on-going/about-to-happen event, and in that case, the imaginary world can be the very close future world you're picturing in your mind.

In other words, you use そうだ when you're both an observer and a person who is currently involved in some way while ようだ is used when you feel you're an observer and kind of an outsider. When you use そうだ, the situation you're taking about is psychologically in front of you.

For this reason, it's impossible to use そうだ when you're talking about an event that already happened or finished; the current yourself living in the "now" time-frame is always an outsider to the world in the past, and you always feel a certain distance between you and a past event. Of course you can say 雨が降りそうだった when you mean you felt that the "about-to-rain" was psychologically related to you and that it was an on-going event you were experiencing in the past. But it just means "雨が降りそうだ" happened in the past, i.e., you were observing the situation in the past and felt it was related to you.

If you say 雨が降ったそうだ, it only means you heard it had rained, i.e., the other kind of そうだ I mentioned earlier in this post. If you want to say "It seems that it rained," you say 雨が降ったみたいだ/ようだ.

雨が降るみたいだった (it seemed that it was going to rain) is used when you were just an observer and psychologically distant from the rain.

It doesn't matter if it's visual information or your conjecture when it comes to the difference in usage. It's just in certain situations you often feel that things are in front of you in an emotional sense, and some types of reasoning appears more often when you observe a situation as an outsider. For example, when you talk to a cheerful girl, you say:

元気そうだね (more likely used when her cheerful appearance cheers you up) 元気みたいだね (you could sound like you're indifferent)

Another example is:

死にそうだ ("I'm dead tired") 死ぬようだ (You sound like a spiritually enlightened monk who is observing his own death without any worldly emotion)

A real girl would say イキそう when she's coming, but a creepy guy who's fingering a female android would be depressed when he hears her say イクみたい because it clearly shows that the robot has no emotion and is just observing the programmed behavior during sexual intercourse.

I guess it's quite difficult to grasp this psychological thing because it doesn't seem English distinguishes "seem" "appear" "think" etc. this way. Sometimes そうだ and ようだ are pretty much interchangeable too. But I think the general rule is that you use そうだ when you feel it's very "close" to you and in front of you in an emotional sense.

Note that ようだ/みたいだ has a lot more meanings such as "like" as in "I hate a guy like him," and you can't always use そうだ just because it's psychologically in front of you.

I hope a native can clarify this...


Like ようだ、らしい is used to express suppositions based on facts, and these two can have the same meaning in a lot of contexts.

But they are not 100% equivalent



Example (a) will be used when the speaker feels drunk, even if there are no apparent symptoms

Exemple (b) will be used when the speaker does not feel his drunkness, but he guesses he is drunk because of several symptoms: he cannot walk straight, he cannot speak clearly, ...

With らしい, the supposition is base on more objective facts than ようだ。 らしい is used in sciences related litterature.

But if the speaker wants to insist it is their personal opinion, they will choose ようだ

translated from: Reiko Shiamamori, Grammaire Japonaise Systématique, Volume II

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