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The lack of Google results for this kind of construction (relative to the number for the equivalent [i-adjective] + そうだと思う and [i-adjective] + そうだと思った for many i-adjectives) made me antsy about using it.

E.g. 「ジム・モリソンはすごく面白そうだったと思う」"I think Jim Morrison seems like he was really interesting."

Am I doing something wrong here?

  • for me it looks perfectly fine, but i'm not 100% sure tho – Felipe Oliveira Mar 13 '17 at 17:27
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Yes it's natural and it means "I think he seemed very interesting". You are thinking now, and you are thinking about the past situation regarding him.

You can use it when you are recalling your vague memory.

私が若い頃は、よくレコード店に行っていたものだ。ジム・モリソンはすごく面白そうだったと思う。 (I think I thought "He is interesting" in those days, but that could be a lapse in my memory.)

And you can also use it when you are implying the statement is no longer true now.

過去には、ジム・モリソンはすごく面白そうだったと思う。今は誰も彼に興味はないけどね。

  • Thanks! You mention using it when you're recalling a vague memory. Is that connotation always present? Would it be appropriate to use if I had, say, just watched a documentary on a deceased person? – Benjamin Good Mar 13 '17 at 19:48
  • @BenjaminGood - That depends on tense of 思う. Do you think it now, or did you at some previous point? – William - Rem Mar 13 '17 at 23:18
  • @BenjaminGood See my second example. After watching a documentary people usually say ジム・モリソンは面白そうだと思った (if you've just gotten interested), ジム・モリソンは面白かった (if you've long enjoyed his songs), etc. ジム・モリソンは面白そうだったと思う means something nuanced, "In the past, he must have seemed interesting". – naruto Mar 14 '17 at 5:20
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I feel 思う is extra in そうだ(そうだった)と思う because そうだ(そうだった) means already that you think so. So I feel they are a bit unnatural.

For example, I feel 今日は雨が降りそうだ is more natural than 今日は、雨が降りそうだと思う, 昨日町で見た車は、高そうだった is more natural than 昨日町で見た車は、高そうだったと思う。

However I think そうだと思った make sense because you need to use the past tense of 思う to mean that you thought so.

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