The potential form of 思う is 思える. If 思う is "to think", then 思える is "can think", right?

Well... at tangorin.com 思える is translated as "to seem" and "to appear likely". So 思える is different verb or there is a translation problem here?

Thank you.

  • 3
    If you think about it, you could say 'You could think it's a dog,' to say 'It seems like a dog', or 'it's likely to be a dog', couldn't you?
    – Angelos
    Feb 22, 2016 at 23:18
  • How do they translate 思う at tangorin? Feb 22, 2016 at 23:37
  • 1
    That is related to 自発 . "「それが自然であり、他の人でもそうするだろう」という感じを含めて自発表現が用いられる".
    – marasai
    Feb 23, 2016 at 1:59
  • 1
    ^ I agree. 思える can be the potential verb of 思う, as in 「この世の物とは思えない。」, and the spontaneous verb/自発動詞 ("seem", "appear" ≂ 思われる) imabi.net/l220spontaneity.htm
    – chocolate
    Feb 23, 2016 at 16:43

1 Answer 1


Yes, 思える is technically the potential of 思う, and it can be used in both the sense of "The ability to feel ~" something or in a more "seems like ~" sense. I agree with Nothing at all's comment that these things are not that different.

In my (somewhat subjective) experience, Tte main difference when using the 思える form is that the subject is de-emphasized, which is similar in English (ex: "I feel it is old" vs. "It seems old").

Here is a random example phrase (pulled from this site)


Three ways to help find a company where you can really feel "I want to work here!"

You could change the form to 思う here (and thereby remove the "can" from the English translation), but I feel it's a bit more natural keeping it as is.

Note that in this example I don't think translating it as "seem" would be appropriate, although there are surely cases like that.

But overall, just start out by interpreting it as the potential of "think/feel" and that will likely lead you to a proper interpretation.

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