らしい Japanese Grammar Lesson
Grammar Type: Auxiliary Adjective
Essential Meaning: It seems that / I heard that / Apparently X is the case (conveys conjecture)
- (Verb / い-Adjective) informal + らしい
- E.g. 話すらしい [X seems to speak]
- E.g. 高いらしい [X seems to be expensive]
- (な-Adjective Stem / Noun) + [X / だった] + らしい
- E.g. 静からしい [X seems to be quiet]
- E.g. 先生らしい [X seems to be a teacher]
- らしい is primarily used to make a conjecture based on second hand information rather than on personal experience. In other words, らしい conveys the speaker’s conjecture based on information that he or she has heard, seen, or read (especially information that he or she has heard).
- E.g. 松田さんはアメリカへ行くらしい。[It seems that Matsuda-san is going to America.] The implication of らしい is that the speaker heard, saw, or read from some second-hand source that Matsuda-san is going to America. The speaker didn’t hear it directly from Matsuda-san.
- When directly re-stating second-hand information with no element of conjecture (e.g. “I heard that…“), そうだ (Hearsay) is used.
- When making a conjecture based on what one sees or feels firsthand, そうだ (Conjecture) is used.
- らしい can also mean “Likeness or nearness to some ideal or standard“. In other words, the structure XはYらしい can mean “X is the ideal or model of Y“. As an example, クリスは女らしい means “Chris is lady-like” or “Chris is the ideal woman.” Because らしい is an adjective, it can be used pre-nominally.
- E.g. 私は男らしい人が好きだ。[I like manly people.] In this example, the speaker likes people who are similar to the ideal man.
- E.g. 大木さんは男らしい。[Oki-san is manly. / It seems that Oki-san is a man.] When らしい is not used pre-nominally, the function of らしい can be ambiguous. In this case, the sentence may express conjecture that Oki-san is a man, or it may convey comparison of Oki-san to the ideal man.
- When negating らしい, らしくない is used for conjecture, and ないらしい is used for comparison to an ideal or model. In other words, らしい does not conjugate when conveying negative conjecture.
- E.g. Conjecture: 大木さんは男じゃないらしい。[It seems that Oki-san is not a man.]
- E.g. Comparison to an ideal: 大木さんは男らしくない。[Oki-san is not manly.]
松田さんはアメリカへ行くらしい。[It seems that Matsuda-san is going to America.]
杉本さんはもう帰ったらしいです。[Sugimoto-san seems to have already gone home.]
このあたりはとても静からしいです。[That place is apparently very quiet.]
その話は本当らしい。 [That seems to be true.]
ここは学校らしい。[This place seems to be a school.]
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