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The other day I posted a picture of some food on Facebook, and I noticed that all of my Japanese friends were saying 「おいしそう」. I made a good guess to what it meant, but I wasn't certain what exactly they were saying. I've seen this stem+そう with other i-adjectives too, such as 楽しそう, but none of this is covered in any of my Japanese books.

What exactly is this? Is it slang? Can it be used with na-adjectives or nouns too? If so how? Thanks! :)

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[See this question, which deals with the same pattern when used with verbs. I'll adapt my answer from that question to answer yours.]

-そう after the stem of a adjective means "looking/sounding as if ___." おいしそう means "it looks as if it will be delicious." It is similar to constructions like おいしいみたい or おいしいよう, but -そう emphasizes evidence of the senses rather than general "seeming."

Contrast it with おいしいそう, which means "it is said to be delicious."

You can use -そう with verbs, adjectives, and some na-adjectives, but not with nouns. Here are some na-adjective examples:

  • 駄目そう (looks like it's no good)
  • 丈夫そう (sturdy-looking)
  • 元気そう (peppy-looking)
  • 大変そう (Sounds rough!)

You can also use the -そう phrase itself as a na-adjective:

  • おいしそうなケーキ (a delicious-looking cake)
  • 2
    Does adjective stem + そう always become na-adjective? What about verb stem + そう --> 壊れそうなバス? – Lukman Jun 9 '11 at 6:22
  • 1
    @Lukman Yes, it's all the same pattern, so they would all become na-adjectives. – Amanda S Jun 9 '11 at 6:30
  • Btw is おいしいみたい rude? Like "it looks as if it is tasty but it isn't" ? – Pacerier May 30 '12 at 12:49
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It seems ...

For instance

  • おいしそう = it seems delicious
  • 行けそう = it seems I will be able to go

It is not slang, it is grammatically correct.

Detailed explanation: http://www.guidetojapanese.org/similar.html#part4

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