So far I encountered そう (if it doesn't mean "appearing, seeming ...") at the beginning of a sentence most of the time. Lately however, I read two sentences putting it in the middle.

The first sentence is about a guy, who speaks about the time he learned about the new marriage of his ex wife:


The other one is about the the same guy learning that his new girlfriend has a child and wondering where it does live.


Its not so much the meaning of the sentences than the grammatical structure that confuses me. Would be great if someone could clear it a bit up!


  • 1
    One would need more context (perhaps a sentence or two that precedes) to know what そう refers to in the first sentence. The second sentence is fine; It contains within itself what そう refers to.
    – user4032
    Feb 24, 2016 at 14:20
  • 1
    I added some context to the first sentence :)Thanks a lot already for all the help!!
    – Anna
    Feb 24, 2016 at 22:22
  • I am really thankul for all your awesome help! It's almost clear to me now. I hope it's okay add another question: Is it possible to change the position of そう思って in the first sentence?.... like 再婚すると聞かされた時、僕はそう思ってしっとするどころかひどく安心したの覚えている。 or would that change the meaning/nuance of the sentence?
    – Anna
    Feb 25, 2016 at 5:55

3 Answers 3


When 「そう」 means "that way", "in such a way", "so", etc. (and not "appearing", "seeming", etc.), it can be used anywhere in the sentence except for at the very end.

The only exception to that general "rule" about the position of 「そう」 in question is when anastrophe is used. We sometimes say things such as 「オレは思うよ、そう。」("I think so."), 「言ったよな、そう?」("You did say that, didn't you?") , but this does not occur in (formal) writing.

So (no pun here), whenever one sees/hears 「そう」 in this usage, what it refers to has already been mentioned and is well understood between speaker/writer and listener/reader. That means that if it is not understood, then 「そう」 has been used improperly.

If the listener/reader ever encountered a misusage of 「そう」, he would reply with 「どう」. These two words form a pair.

When I first read your first sentence:


As a Japanese-speaker, my natural reaction was to wonder to myself 「どう思ったの?」 because I, as a reader, could not have known what the speaker thought if I only had that sentence to go by. Hence, my request for more context, and thanks to you, it is all clear now.

「[彼]{かれ}ならきっと[大丈夫]{だいじょうぶ}だ。」 is what the speaker was referring to by 「そう思って」.

In your second example sentence, what 「そう」 refers to is clearly mentioned within itself.


"Did the husband's side take custody of the kid, then? No, that is not the case."

I intentionally translated the original using two sentences because that is the "feeling" of the original sentence on the native level.

"if one were to ask (this question), then no, that would not be the case."


The location of the word is not completely relevant; both "そう" can be translated as "in such a way".

It is the adverb 然う, which is almost exclusively written in hiragana.


1 そのように。「私も―思う」

2 (あとに打消しの語を伴って)それほど。そんなに。「―大きくない」


thought in such a way


it was not in such a way

The second formulation looks a bit strange in English, but that is only because I am trying to force a translation of this somewhat hard to definitively translate adverb. Perhaps a more suitable formulation would be "it was not so".

Similarly, with the added context, it would make more sense to translate the first formulation as "thinking that", or "considering that", but it is still the same word.


I think the usage you are talking about is something like 寒そう (seems cold).

As you probably already guessed, the meaning of そう in your two example sentences is somewhat different.

In the first, you can just understand そう as meaning "like that". Take this simple example:


It's too expensive. That's what I think.

So in the fist example sentence, "そう思ってひどく安心した" means something like "I thought about that and was very relieved". Translating it literally would be a little awkward, so here is my guess at a more natural translation:


When I heard she was getting married, rather than feeling jealous I remember I was actually so relieved to hear that.

In the second sentence, そう is part of そうじゃない which simply means "is not", and would be the opposite of "そう(だ)". It is used to deny the statement right before it.

Again, a somewhat non-literal translation that tries to get across the meaning.


Now then, if you thought that the child was taken and brought up by the husband, you'd be wrong.

Make sense?

  • 1
    It seems you are seeing the "words" that are just not there in the sentence starting with 「再婚すると」. That sentence could not be translated until one knows what 「そう」 refers to. As I said in my comment, that information is NOT in the sentence.
    – user4032
    Feb 24, 2016 at 14:27
  • How do you know that そう doesn't refer to 再婚? But I agree knowing more context would help clarify what this refers to.
    – Locksleyu
    Feb 24, 2016 at 14:36
  • 5
    "How do you know that そう doesn't refer to 再婚?" >> "relieved to hear that = 再婚" だったら「そう思って安心した」じゃなくて「そう聞いて安心した」になるはずだと思います・・・
    – Chocolate
    Feb 24, 2016 at 22:43

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