So what is the difference between「~らしい」(hearsay) vs 「~そうだ」(hearsay)?

この料理はおいしいらしい。This dish, I've heard it is delicious.
この料理はおいしいそうです。This dish, I've heard it is delicious.

Both report an indirect source, information.
「~らしい」seems more polite, more softer than「~そうだ」? or more subjective maybe?

Can you help me ?


  • as you wrote it, there’s a huge difference. i think you want to ask about おいしそう, which means “looks delicious “, whereas おいしいそう means “i hear it’s delicious “. i’m a nonnative speaker so i’ll defer to someone else to explain the nuances between おいしいらしい and おいしそう. – A.Ellett Aug 19 '20 at 14:50
  • おいしいらしいです and おいしいそうです both describe hearsay, but your English translation don't reflect this. It's not "It appears" but "They say" or "I've heard". "It appears to be delicious" is a translation of おいしそうです. – naruto Aug 19 '20 at 19:12
  • @naruto thanks for the comment. i never realized らしい could be used for hearsay. – A.Ellett Aug 19 '20 at 19:49
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    @naruto Sorry, English is not my native langage. Thanks for the correction. Em These topics, they not explain the difference between ~らしい (hearsay) and ~そうだ (hearsay) – Kenshiro Aug 20 '20 at 11:45

There is little difference in the function as hearsay, but らしい tells the speaker's "interpretation" of the fact, while そうだ is mentally a quote to the speaker, that needs to be kept faithful to what they originally heard.

What I mean is:

X: Aさんも参加するんですか? Will A-san join us?

Y: その日は病院に行くって言ってました。 S/he said s/he'll see doctor that day.


  • Aさんは病院(○ らしい/○ だそう)です。
  • Aさんは病院に行くので来れない(○ らしい/△ そう)です。
  • Aさんは来れない(○ らしい/× そう)です。

On the other hand, らしい is not suitable when the source is perfectly reliable:

X: Aさんも参加するんですか?

A: その日は病院に行きます。

X: Aさんは病院(× らしい/○ だそう)です。

Bonus: never confuse [dictionary form] + そう and [masu-stem (連用形) / stem] + そう. The latter tells what the speaker collects from their direct sensation (look, sound, taste, ...).

hearsay              sensation
行くそうだ           行きそうだ
おいしいそうだ       おいしそうだ
きれいだそうだ       きれいそうだ
  • Thanks @broccoli facemask. And the difference between「~らしい」vs「~そうだ」(conjecture/guess)? 「雨が降るらしい」and 「雨が降りそうです」. I just thought about it. – Kenshiro Aug 20 '20 at 13:31
  • @Kenshiro You can simply go to see some of links Em. has suggested above. – broken laptop Aug 20 '20 at 13:35
  • I mean the difference「~らしい」(conjecture/guess) vs「~そうだ」(conjecture/guess)? 「雨が降るらしい」and 「雨が降りそうです」both translate "it looks like it's going to rain". I didn't find in links. – Kenshiro Aug 20 '20 at 14:00
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    @Kenshiro I went to see some JLPT articles, and finally understand what you are saying. Well... first, I think the "conjecture" らしい is pretty low frequency with limited usage (though indeed interesting). At least I can't think of an easy case 雨が降るらしい becomes valid in that way. Second, you should open a new question for this as it goes aside from your original one (don't forget to explain why you think existing threads don't answer you, otherwise it'll be judged duplicate). – broken laptop Aug 21 '20 at 15:17
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    Thanks. The link for this question : japanese.stackexchange.com/q/80300/39752 – Kenshiro Aug 24 '20 at 13:00

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