This is a grammar point that had me in a lot of confusion recently. I’d created some lessons to help people on the Memrise group learn these but due to conflicting information on the internet the course got very jumbled and had to be corrected a number of times. I’ve finally pinned down these grammar points after checking with native Japanese people. Apologies to those who have been using Memrise and gotten confused on these points. I hope the following helps.

The following are all the uses for sou そう for “It seems” and “I heard”. If you have any further questions feel free to ask in the comments.

If the following doesn’t help Maggie Sensei has a good explanation for “it seems” (sadly she doesn’t go into detail on “I heard”)

Uses of sou そう from Maggie sensei
Maggie Sensei explains the use of “it seems”

You can practice the following grammar on Memrise in lessons 8 & 9 in the Beginners Japanese Grammar 2 course. 

I Heard: dictionary OR past tense そう(だ・です)

(*The だ in informal Japanese is optional to have on the end of the sentence.)

“I heard” is used when you hear something from someone, such as a friend or the news, and then tell someone else about it.

Dictionary form + そう is used when describing something that will happen. Such as “I heard it will rain today” would be きょうはあめがそうです.

Past tense + そう is used when describing something that has happened. Such as “I heard it rained today” which would be きょうはあめがったそうです.

Verb Future –  るそう (です・だ)

  • はれるそうです – I heard it will be sunny (polite)
  • くそうです – I heard [they are] going (polite)

Verb Past – たそう  (です・だ)

  • とんだそうです – I heard it flew (polite)
  • すすんだそうです – I heard [he] was making progress (polite)

Verb neg – なかったそう for “I heard something didn’t happen”
– ないそう for “I heard something won’t happen”

  • まにあわなかったそうだ – I heard [he] didn’t make it (past neg)
  • たりないそうだ – I heard it won’t be enough (neg)

い-Adj – かったそう /  いそう

  • たかくないそう – I heard it won’t be expensive
  • やすいそうだ – I heard it will be cheap

な-Adj – だったそう <- Remember to add the だった instead of な!
– だそう <- Remember to add だ instead of な!

  • べんりだったそうだ – I heard it was convenient (past)
  • しずかだそうだ – I heard it will be quiet

It Seems: stem そう (だ・です)

(*The だ in informal Japanese is optional to have on the end of the sentence.)

“It seems” is used when you’re judging something based on your own conclusions. Such as looking out of the window and thinking “oh it seems like it’s going to rain” which would be あめがそうです.

Verb – Stem そう です・だ

  • れんしゅうしそうだ – it seems like (they will) practice
  • きそうです – it seems like (they will) cry (polite)

Verb Past – そう でした・だった

  • ねむりそうでした – it seems like (I) was going to sleep (past polite)
  • きそうだった – it seems like (it) was put down (past polite)

Verb neg – なさそう <- The い changes to さ

  • じかんがなさそう – it doesn’t seem like (I) have any time (neg)
  • まにあわなさそうです – it doesn’t seem like (I’ll) make it (neg polite)

い-Adj – そう <- The い gets dropped!

  • おいしそう – it seems tasty
  • おもしろそう – it seems interesting

な-Adj – そう <- No な and no だ, just そう

  • げんきそうだ – [they] seem energetic
  • しずかそうだ – it seems quiet

IRREGULAR: いい -> よさそう

EXCEPTION: Don’t say かわいいそう (かわいい is a な-Adj), you would say かわいいらしい.