What are the uses of the sō ending?
The verb ending sō (そう) has more than one meaning. These can
be distinguished by the form of the preceeding verb.
Usage 1: Conjecture, appearance
When sō attaches to
it means "looks like" or "seems".
the i ending of the verb (see What is the 'i' verb ending?), for example
owaru (to finish) becoming owarisō
the stem of an -i adjective, for example oishii
(delicious, tasty) becoming oishisō. (See What is an i adjective?)
- a na adjective, such as kantan (easy) becoming
- ame ga furisō desu
'it looks like it is going to rain'
- ano tabemono wa oishisō da
'that food looks delicious'
- kono shigoto wa kantan sō da
'this work looks easy'.
When it is negative, it becomes either nasō or nasasō.
The above examples would become
- ame ga furanasō desu or furanasasō desu
"It does not look as if it is going to rain"
- ano tabemono wa oishikunasasō da
"That food doesn't look tasty."
- kono shigoto wa kantan ja (de wa) nasasō da
"This work doesn't look easy."
A negative form is also formed by transforming the da which comes
after sou into its negative ja nai, or de mo nai or
even mo nai. This form is emphatic. For example this might be
used when contradicting what someone else said. In this form the
above examples become
- Ame ga furisō mo nai.
"It doesn't look at all like it's going to rain."
- Ano tabemono wa oishisō de mo nai.
"That food doesn't look good at all".
Usage 2: Reporting what has been heard
When sō comes after
it means that whoever uses it is reporting something that they heard
or read somewhere else.
- the dictionary form of the verb, for example furu
becoming furu sō,
- the -i adjective, for example oishii becoming oishii sō (note the extra i)
- after a na adjective plus da, for example
kantan becoming kantan da sō.
- ame wa furu sō desu
'I heard that it is going to rain.'
- ano tabemono wa oishii sō da
'Someone told me that that food is delicious.'
- kono shigoto wa kantan da sō da
'He says that this work is easy.'
- kawaisō (pitiful) is not a conjectural sō ending of
kawaii (cute, loveable). Kawaii sō, however, means "(I)
heard that (she/he/it) is cute/loveable". Japanese native speakers can
easily distinguish between the two spoken forms, if pronounced
- There are two irregular conjectural sō forms:
- yosasō is the irregular form of yoi or
ii. (If it were regular it would be yosō.)
- nasasō is the irregular form of nai (the negative of
aru). It would be nasō if it were regular. As we saw
above, this negative form is sometimes also used with a negative verb
ending, such as furanasasō. See, for
Reference Grammar of Japanese by Samuel E. Martin (pp. 992-993 of
the Tuttle edition) for more details.
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