Japanese by Example
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Conjecture with 〜らしい

らしい generally expresses conjecture based on what the speaker believes is reliable information they have heard, seen, or read.

Comparable words in English include “seems”, “looks like”, “apparently”, and “I heard”.


As an auxiliary adjective, らしい may attach to a noun, adjective, or verb.

A preceding verb is plain form; may be in present, past, or present progressive tense; and may be affirmative or negative.

そうだ differs in that it expresses a guess based on what the speaker sees, whereas らしい is based on what the speaker believes to be more reliable information.

Further reading

  • Chino, Naoko. “Basic Pattern 46.” A Dictionary of Basic Japanese Sentence Patterns, Kodansha, 2000, p. 251
  • Kamiya, Taeko. “Expressing Conjecture and Hearsay, and Quoting People.” Japanese Sentence Patterns for Effective Communication, Kodansha, 2005, p. 227
  • Makino, Seiichi and Michio Tsutsui. “Main Entries.” A Dictionary of Basic Japanese Grammar, The Japan Times Ltd., 1989, pp. 373–374


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