Here's another habitual mistake I make. I'm looking at a sign for a restaurant with pictures of great food. So I remark to my friend:


... intending to mean, "that looks good, don't you think?" (more literally: "[that] seems delicious, huh?"). I'm going to make "good" synonymous with "delicious" for 美味{おい}しい in this question, by the way, because it's more natural for me to say food is "good".

My friend laughs, though, and tells me that by using そう in this case, I'm saying that I've heard or been informed that it is good. It does not mean that I am directly assessing the picture for myself in that moment.

Yet, when I look up in the dictionary, one of the definitions of そう is "seems" or "looks like". There's no mention of hearsay.

I've also looked at some related questions on this site, but I'm still left confused. In the answer to that question, it says "そう emphasizes evidence of the senses rather than general seeming." Well... if that's true, then shouldn't my eyes looking at the picture be the evidence of the sense I need to justify using そう?

First, what should I say if I want to say "that looks good"? 「美味{おい}しいみたい」? That seems like I am saying that the presentation might be deceptive, as in "that might be good, but that's just the way the picture is, and who knows about the real thing." 「美味{おい}しいかな」? That makes it sound like I'm seeking confirmation, as in "I wonder if that's good?" 「美味{おい}しいだろ」? That sounds to me like I'm asking the question "does that look good?"

Second, I feel like I hear Japanese around me saying 「美味{おい}しいそう」 all the time. If it involves some hearsay, then is it only used as a confirmation after someone has made a previous statement? Like so:

昨日{きのう}、めちゃうまいビーガン店{みせ}に行った! ("Yesterday I went to an insanely awesome vegan restaurant!")

美味{おい}しいそう!私{わたし}も行{い}きたい!  ("That sounds good! I want to go too!")

Please help me kill this bad habit.

Please no technical linguistic terms. Thanks!

1 Answer 1


I believe the issue can be explained more simply than you might think. ~そうだ has two different meanings. One is, indeed, to report hearsay. The other is to make a judgement or conjecture based on a visual cue or observation.

They have an extremely similar, but slightly different formation.

For i-adjectives, if you drop the い at the end, you are using the "visual cue / observation" version of ~そうだ. If you leave the trailing い in the word, you are reporting hearsay.

When you say


you are thus saying "I heard this place was good." On the other hand, if you say


you are saying "This place looks good."

This is especially tricky for い adjectives whose penultimate kana also ends with an "i". It's for a similar reason that I still can't break the habit of saying かわくない instead of かわいくない 「可愛くない」.

  • 2
    Wait... hold up... are you saying all these years I've been getting it confused just because of the presence or absence of い? I got it wrong only because I added an extra い to what I wanted to say, which was 美味しそう?
    – Questioner
    Commented Jul 17, 2011 at 8:28
  • 1
    Precisely. Unless you meant to say "I heard it was good!" out of nowhere suddenly, which will cause a question mark to pop out of someone who just made a remark about how awesome the vegan restaurant was.
    – syockit
    Commented Jul 17, 2011 at 11:26
  • Also a note about かわいそう which shouldn't be confused with this: it's a different word and not a grammatical variation of 可愛い{かわいい} as the kanji show: 可哀想 or 可哀相 ;)
    – desseim
    Commented Jan 21, 2014 at 11:12
  • Those kanjis (可愛い・可哀想 or 可哀相) have nothing to do with the etymology of かわいい. かわいそう is a variation of かわいい though they shouldn't be confused as you say.
    – user4092
    Commented Apr 16, 2014 at 9:34
  • this might be text book correct but it is not correct in actual native speaker usage. Japanese friends use 美味しいそう all the time to means "it looks delicious". I've questioned them on it and how I was taught that with い means "I heard it was delicious" vs without the い means "it looks delicious" and they acknowledge it but still say it with the い quite often. I have a feeling it's real usage vs "correct usage" kind of like 食べれる (actual usage) vs 食べられる (correct usage)
    – gman
    Commented Jul 17, 2023 at 21:40

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