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, 2020 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, 2020 at 19:12
  • @naruto thanks for the comment. i never realized らしい could be used for hearsay.
    – A.Ellett
    Aug 19, 2020 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, 2020 at 11:45

1 Answer 1


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, 2020 at 13:31
  • @Kenshiro You can simply go to see some of links Em. has suggested above. Aug 20, 2020 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, 2020 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). Aug 21, 2020 at 15:17
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    Thanks. The link for this question : japanese.stackexchange.com/q/80300/39752
    – Kenshiro
    Aug 24, 2020 at 13:00

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