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How to use “~らしい” in Japanese

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How to use “~らしい” in Japanese

Last week Shiho explained how to use “~ようだ” to judge a situation and make assumptions.
In today’s lesson we will take a look at the expression “~らしい”. “~らしい” is very similar to expressions we’ve studied before, including “~そうだ” and “~ようだ/~みたいだ”. During the live-stream, she explained how to effectively distinguish between these expressions and how you can make sure to choose the right one for each situation you find yourself in. The differences are subtle, but they are there!

Table of Contents
[About “~らしい”]
[Using “~らしい” to express hearsay/rumours]
[Using “~らしい” to express a guess]
[How to conjugate “~らしい”]
[Using “~らしい” to express patterns/typical situations]

[About “~らしい”]

“~らしい” allows the speaker to express hearsay/rumours, guesses and specific patterns or types of situations.

[Using “~らしい” to express hearsay/rumours]

Using “~らしい” to express hearsay or rumours means using it to express something the speaker has heard through other people or sources. It can be used very similarly to “~そうだ” for hearsay, which we will cover next time.
However, using “~らしい” rather than “~そうだ” to convey hearsay allows the speaker to sound more objective regarding the situation at hand.
For example you could say:

さっき天気予報てんきよほうたんだけど、明日あしたゆきらしいよ。
I watched the weather forecast earlier and it seems like it’s going to rain tomorrow.

[Using “~らしい” to express a guess]

Using “~らしい” to express a guess or an assumption means the speaker has some kind of basis upon which she or he bases an imagined or expected outcome. The same thing can be done with “~ようだ”, but here as well “~らしい” allows the speaker to convey whatever they want to say more objectively by distancing themselves from the situation.
For example:

うちのは、あたしいゲームをしがるのはめたらしい
It seems like our kid stopped wishing for that new video game.

“~らしい” can be used to convey an asumption the speaker has made about a situation objectively, but depending on the cirumstances “~らしい” can also have a nuance of indifference, composure and of not feeling responsible for the situation at hand.

Furthermore you can convey a third party’s thoughts, feelings and actions by adding “~らしい” to the end of a sentence. For example:

小林こばやしさんはパーティーにたくないらしいです。
It seems like Ms. Kobayashi doesn’t want to go to the party.

[How to conjugate “~らしい”]

Let’s take a look at how to use “~らしい” grammatically correct. Basically, you can use the “普通形ふつうけい” or normal form of verbs, adjectives and nouns+だ and add “~らしい” at the end.

Example with the verbく”
行いくらしい/行かないらしい/行ったらしい/行かなかったらしい

Example with the i-adjectiveいたい”
痛いらしい/痛くないらしい/痛かったらしい/痛くなかったらしい

Example with the na-adjective元気げんき
元気らしい/元気じゃないらしい・元気ではないらしい/元気だったらしい/元気じゃなかったらしい・元気ではなかったらしい

Example with the nounやすみ”
休みらしい/休みじゃないらしい・休みではないらしい/休みだったらしい/休みじゃなかったらしい・休みではなかったらしい

Make sure to take care to use the correct form each time.

[Using “~らしい” to express patterns/typical situations]

You can use “~らしい” to express a situation that is representative for a specific pattern, meaning it fits into a previously decided upon category. In this case you use a noun + らしい. For example:

今日きょうなつらしい天気てんきだ。
Today is a typical summer day.

Please take note that this way of expressing situational patterns is different from the way you can use “~ような” (from “~ようだ”) to express similes. Many people mistake these two. Let us make the difference clear.

For example, can you tell how the sentences “今日きょうなつらしい天気てんきだ” and “今日きょうなつのような天気てんきだ” are different?

なつらしい天気てんき” means that the season right now is summer. It is a typical summer day. But if you say “なつのような天気てんき”, that means right now is not summer. It could be winter, autumn, or spring, but the weather is like a summer day.

Let’s look at another example:

小林こばやしさんはおとこらしいひとだ” (Kobayashi is a typical man) and “小林こばやしさんはおとこのようなひとだ” (Kobayashi is/behaves like a man).

In the first example, “おとこらしい”, Kobayashi actually is a man. A typical one, at that. In the second example, “おとこのような”, Kobayashi is a girl who seems or comes across manly. She, as a person, is likened to a man.

We know it can be very difficult to distinguish between all of these expressions, since they are very similar to each other. Re-read every article once more, practice, and speak as much Japanese (plus points if you speak with a native speaker!) as you can and you will learn how to use them correctly in time. 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)
判断はんだんできる To be able to judge/decide
ちが Difference
伝聞でんぶん Hearsay, rumour
意味いみ Meaning
客観的きゃっかんてき Objectively
つたえる To convey
天気予報てんきよほう Weather forecast
推量すいりょう Guess
根拠こんきょ Basis, foundation
想像する To imagine
状況じょうきょうによる Depending on the circumstances
無関心むかんしん Apathy, indifference
冷静れいせい Calmness, composure
無責任むせきにん Irresponsibility
ニュアンス Nuance
第三者だいさんしゃ Third person
典型てんけい Type, pattern
典型的てんけいてき Typical, representative
以外いがい With the exception of, excepting
整理せいり Sorting, arrangement