I was going through a JLPT grammar practice book and am confused on a question:



I choose 寝そう since ~そう is often used to make conjectures based on visual info (Ichiro's light is off). But the answer key says 寝たよう is better. Any thoughts on why?


「寝{ね}そう」 = "It looks like someone is about to go asleep" The person is still awake, officially.

「寝たよう」 = "It seems one has just gone asleep/gone to bed." As far as you can tell, the person is already asleep.

Thus, the two phrases describe very different situations.

「一郎{いちろう}、まだ起{お}きているかな。」 "Would Ichiro be still up?"

「部屋{へや}の電気{でんき}が消{き}えているから、もう_____よ。」 "_______ because the room lights are off."

The correct answer should clearly be 「もう寝たようよ」.

  • 2
    I think the confusion for OP lies in that 寝る can mean "to sleep", such as in 彼は寝ている = "he is sleeping", while it at other times means more like the action of falling asleep or going to sleep. – bjorn Oct 22 '17 at 21:33
  • @bjorn Yeah, I have this confusion as well... Isn't falling asleep 眠る? I often hear things like 眠れない for "I can't fall asleep". – Sweeper Oct 23 '17 at 9:35
  • I'm wondering if the confusion with 連用形+そう can be explained as a difference between continuous and momentary verbs (along bjorn's line of reasoning I think). Perhaps 寝る (as well as the verb 泣く which I previously asked a question about - linked above) are momentary verbs that are interpreted in Japanese as only representing the instant that the verb begins. So instant verb + そう would logically imply the action had just barely begun if at all. After that intro, my follow-up would be: Does 歩きそう mean "He seems to be walking" or "He seems to be about to walk" or is it context dependent? – G-Cam Oct 23 '17 at 18:04
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    @G-Cam It's just parallel to the example above. 歩きそう means "he would likely walk then" or "he looks like starting to walk", in other words, he's not walking in the moment. – user4092 Oct 24 '17 at 2:51

I think l'électeur's answer is perfect.

If I could add some information for bjorn's comment with "... at other times means more like the action of falling asleep or going to sleep" I would give the following question to OP. In this question OP could use 寝{ね}そう as a correct answer.

「部屋{へや}の電気{でんき}が(今{いま})消{き}えたから、もう_____よ。」"_____because the lights of the room have just gone out."

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