Of course it is common to attach そうだ to na-adjectives or i-adjectives (高そうな車, 元気そうな人 etc), but it doesn't seem to be the case for kango words which can operate as either nouns or adjectives.

For example, it sounds natural (to me) to say 良さそうな車 but it sounds unnatural (to me) to say 良質そうな車. I was thinking about describing an oncoming typhoon as 強烈そうな台風 but again it sounds a little strange to me. Is is simply that it is less common to attach そう to kango adjectival nouns, or is it actually unnatural to do so?

  • 1
    But 元気 functions also as a simple noun (元気が足りない), whereas 良質 and 強烈 are unlikely to work as a simple noun. What's your criteria for distinguishing na-adjectives and kango words? 良質そうな車 does sound unnatural to me, but it's because 良質 is usually not used with uniformly mass-produced things like 車.
    – naruto
    Sep 30, 2018 at 2:43
  • My specific example is not the point, so you could substitute any word after良質そうな... Does it still sound ok? As for differentiating between na-adjectives and kango words, I was mainly enquiring about two-kanji kango na-adjectives (which may also function as nouns).
    – kandyman
    Sep 30, 2018 at 13:26
  • @naruto I don't see any reason why 良質 and 強烈 cannot function as simple nouns. You could surely imagine an instance where you would conjugate them in the same way as a noun, i.e. 強烈だった.
    – kandyman
    Sep 30, 2018 at 13:37
  • @naruto And mainly I am trying to see if it sounds unnatural to a native speaker to attach ~そうな to word like this. And if it does sound unnatural, why. Does 強烈そうな台風 sound strange?
    – kandyman
    Sep 30, 2018 at 13:40

2 Answers 2


You seems to have misunderstood the concept of na-adjective. All na-adjectives accept -だ, so just because you can say 強烈だ does not mean 強烈 also works as a simple noun. A simple noun can take case particles like は/が/を, but you cannot say 強烈がある or 強烈を見る, right?

  • 元気: a na-adjective that also works as a standalone noun.


  • 良質: a na-/no-adjective that can only describe a noun (attributively or predicatively). It very rarely works as a standalone noun.


  • 強烈: a na-adjective that can describe a noun (attributively or predicatively) or a verb or another adjective (adverbially). It cannot work as a standalone noun.


So quite contrary to your statements, 良質 and 強烈 are "purer" na-adjectives, and your question seems baseless to me. If a word works as a na-adjective, you can attach そうな to it, at least grammatically. But it does not mean na-adj + そうな must always make sense. 良質そうな車 and 強烈そうな台風 are unnatural for different reasons.

  • 良質そうな車 is unnatural because 良質 usually describes natural products like fruit, ore, oil, etc. But you can safely say 高級そうな車 instead although 高級 is a two-kanji kango word.
  • 強烈そうな台風 is almost always unnatural because そう always involves a direct observation, and ordinary people cannot directly observe a typhoon and say "That typhoon appears to be furious" before knowing about it on TV or the internet. If you were an astronaut and noticed a large typhoon on the earth, you could safely say 強烈そうな台風が見えます.

And statistically speaking, I think そう tends to be used with i-adjectives more often, because observable simple concepts are covered by native Japanese vocabulary (wago). Kango words are better at describing abstract concepts, but they are unlikely to be used with そう anyway.

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    As you point out, my examples were unnatural for semantic reasons, but what I was attempting to ask was whether all na-adjectives (including two-character jukugo) will accept そう grammatically. As I understand it, you are saying that grammatically they can but are restricted by how the intended meaning is conveyed. Also, if you were watching TV and seeing the scenes of a typhoon which appeared to be very strong, would it not be acceptable to use 強烈そう because you are reporting observations (albeit via TV).
    – kandyman
    Oct 1, 2018 at 17:54
  • @kandyman Very common examples include 健康そうな人, 簡単そうな問題 and 快適そうなベッド. But I think na-adjectives that include 的 never accept そうな (×抽象的そうな話題). I think this is because 的 already includes the meaning of "seemingly" or "like".
    – naruto
    Oct 1, 2018 at 18:00
  • I see. That's an interesting point about 的. So how would you express the ungrammatical 抽象的そうな問題 in a correct way? Is 抽象的な問題 adequate to cover the nuance of "a problem which seems abstract"?
    – kandyman
    Oct 1, 2018 at 19:05

According to the dictionary, 強烈 is a na-adjective.

So 強烈そうな台風 is correct.

According to "A Dictionary of Basic Japanese Grammar", page 411:
Noun or noun+copula (not just 漢語, but any noun) cannot precede そうだ, but the negative non-past of the copula can.

Wrong: 加藤さんは先生そうだ。
Wrong: 加藤さんは先生だそうだ。(this is correct only if そうだ means hearsay)
Correct: 加藤さは先生じゃなさそうだ。


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