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How to use “~そうだ” (hearsay) in Japanese


How to use “~そうだ” (hearsay) in Japanese

Last week Shiho explained how to use “~らしい” to convey assumptions, hearsay and specific types of situational patterns. This time, we will take a look at the expression “~そうだ”, which we covered before. However, this time you will learn how to use “~そうだ” to express rumours and hearsay.

Table of Contents
[Short reflection]
[About “~そうだ” (hearsay)]
[Conveying information more neutrally]
[The difference between “~そうだ” (describing things) & “~そうだ” (hearsay)]

[Short reflection]

Up until this point, we studied three expressions that are very similar to each other: “~そうだ” (describing situations), “~ようだ/~みたいだ”, and “~らしい”. They all express very similar things, so it’s easy to mix them up. If you are confused after this article, we recommend re-reading the previous three articles to deepen your understanding of the differences between all of these expressions.

[About “~そうだ” (hearsay)]

Using “~そうだ” to convey “伝聞” (でんぶん) or rumour/hearsay means that the speaker is conveying information they have acquired through a source, meaning the speaker may have heard or read the information they are relaying somewhere.
Using “~そうだ” (hearsay) means that the speaker feels a sense of urgeny to relay what they’ve picked up somewhere, and that they feel their information is valuable. Therefore, “~そうだ” (hearsay) is not a neutral expression but includes the speakers emotions.

For example the speaker could say:

I heard there was an earthquake in Kyushu yesterday.

This sentence does not only convey the fact that there was an earthquake in Kyushu, but includes the underlying information that the speaker thinks of this as important information and wants to convey it quickly.

[Including the source of information]
Furthermore, since “~そうだ” (hearsay) is used to convey informatiom acquired via a source, that source is often mentioned in the same sentence.

For example:

According to the newspaper there was an earthquake in Kyushu yesterday.

In this sentence, the newspaper is the source of information. The speaker knew about the incident through the newspaper and is now relaying this knowledge to someone else.

[Conveying information more neutrally]

We have established that “~そうだ” (hearsay) includes the speakers emotions; that they feel to a certain degree what they have to relay is valuable information and needs to be heard quickly.

Now, what should you do if you simply want to relay information without this emotional undertone? If you are frequently listening to the radio or watching TV in Japanese, you may have heard this expression before.

The correct answer is: “~ということ”.

For example, the news could say …

15 reported dead during an earthquake in Kyushu.

… since the news cannot say “九州きゅうしゅう地震じしんでは、15めい死者ししゃたそうです”, as it would undermine the news attempt at neutrality and since the feelings of the news anchor aren’t needed in this scenario.

[Relaying a third party’s thoughts, feelings, & actions]
Another way to use “~そうだ” is to express a third party’s thoughts, feelings, or actions when placing it at the end of a sentence. For example:

Ms. Kobayashi seems happy about passing that difficult test.

However, when conveying a third party’s thoughts, feelings, or actions, your sentence cannot be in the past or interrogative form.

[How to use “~そうだ” (hearsay) grammatically correct]
Let’s take a look how to conjugate and decline the verbs and nouns to use with “~そうだ” (hearsay) correctly. While for the other form of “~そうだ” you were using the word stem + “~そうだ”, when conveying hearsay (or another person’s thoughts, feelings, and emotions) you use the normal form, or 普通形ふつうけい, of the verb or adjective and the normal form/普通形ふつうけい + だ for nouns.

Let’s look at some examples!

Verb: く (to go)

i-Adjective: いたい (hurtful, painful)

na-Adjective: 元気げんき (happy, in good spirits)

Noun: やすみ (holiday)

[The difference between “~そうだ” (describing things) & “~そうだ” (hearsay)]

Apart from the grammatical difference let’s take a look at the difference in meaning between the “~そうだ” that describes things and situations and the “~そうだ” that conveys hearsay and rumours.

Do you remember how to use the descriptive “~そうだ”? It has two meanings or ways you can use it.

The first one is expressing an expectation. The speaker is looking at a situation and concludes what is most likely to happen or how they judge a situation to be – for example judging a person might not come after they have made you wait for an hour, or looking at food and concluding it looks delicious – the speaker does not have proof for their expectations, but this is what they judge a thing or situation to be like.

The second one is expressing the possibility that something might happen. In other words, either way this type of “~そうだ” means the speaker has a situation at hand, judges it, and expresses their impression of said situation.

The “~そうだ” we studied today is used to convey or relay information you have acquired via a source – something you’ve heard someone say, something you’ve read somewhere, etc.

Let’s take a look at some example sentences and try to determine which type of “~そうだ” they are!

1) あのケーキは美味おいしそうだ!

2) このレストランはやすくて美味おいしいそうです。

The correct answer is that sentence number 1 is the descriptive “~そうだ”: “This cake looks delicious” is the speaker’s expectation. Sentence number 2 is the rumour/hearsay “~そうだ”: “I heard this restaurant was cheap and delicious” is obviously knowledge the speaker has acquired via a source.

You can also determine the difference grammatically. For the descriptive “~そうだ” you use the word stem + そうだ (hence 美味おいしそうだ), while for the rumour/hearsay one, you use the normal form/普通形ふつうけい of the word (hence 美味おいしいそうだ).

As you can see, the differences are very tiny but they are there! Just by including or leaving out the “い” in “美味おいしい” the meaning of the whole sentence changes! Make sure to try and use these expressions a lot when speaking Japanese and you’ll learn to differentiate between them more naturally. Good luck studying!

If you ever want to practice this expression with one of our native Japanese tutors, don’t hesitate to sign up on Wasabi and start with a trial lesson before deciding for anything!

単語たんごリスト(Vocabulary list)
伝聞でんぶん Hearsay, rumor
価値かち Worth, value
情報じょうほう Information
ふくまれる To be included
表現ひょうげん Expression
九州きゅうしゅう Kyushu (one of the four main islands of Japan)
地震じしん Earthquake
重要じゅうよう Important
情報源じょうほうげん Source of information
報道ほうどう Information, report
過去形かこけい Past form
疑問文ぎもんぶん Interrogative sentence
兆候ちょうこう Sign, indication
印象いんしょう Impression
整理せいり Sorting, arrangement