Differences between よう、みたい、らしい、とみえる、そう

I almost always get a wrong answer when Bunpro asks for “seems like”. This “hint” is the same for sentences looking for よう、みたい、らしい、とみえる、そう. So how can I know which one is correct? For example, can somebody explain the different nuances of the following sentences:

  1. あの人はお金を持っていない よう
  2. あの人はお金を持っていない みたい
  3. あの人はお金を持っていない らしい
  4. あの人はお金を持っていない とみえる
  5. あの人はお金を持っていなさそう

I think Bunpro needs to find a way to show more clearly which form they are asking for. And since these grammar points are still not linked together as similar grammar, it is hard to look them up seperately to read again about the structure and the meaning.


The team is working very hard on this problem!

Currently, every time you encounter one of the mentioned grammar points while reviewing, the “nuance hint” corresponding to the reviewed point will be shown at the bottom, so it should help you choose the one you are currently asked for.

This is how it looks like:

As you can see, the nuances are different.
よう/みたい have the highest degree of certainty. You have reliable information that mentioned person doesn’t have money.
So, if you use らしい instead , then it will mean that you base your conjecture on second hand information, and you are less sure(you most likely heard it from someone, or read about it). If you use みたい, then the sentence will be more casual, but certainty level is the same as よう. If you use そう then the conjecture is based on what you see(you are standing next to the guy, and notice he is in ragged clothes etc, those are your visual cues), but the certainty level is lower than both - らしい and よう。Also, そう is often used when it seems that something might happen like change of weather or someone slipping on banana peel(from the visual cues).
Xようにみえる is similar to そう, you are direct observer of something and the thing you see makes you feel X. It is not as certain as ようだ alone.

If you use でしょう(だろう) then it is just a conjecture/guess, without outside information, based on some reasoning. Something like a thought experiment. You can use it to show, that you aren’t really sure about something.
かもしれない is similar to でしょう/だろう but the certainty level is much lower.



@mrnoone Awesome explanation!


Thanks a lot for that explanation. That helped me to understand the differences. Let’s see if I can manage to find the right form just from reading the “nuance hint”. Anyway, all these mentioned forms should be linked together as “similar grammar”. When I get a wrong answer I could quickly open the similar grammar tab and read again. But as it is now, I need to leave the reviews, search for each grammar point one after another and then return to the reviews. Not so convenient :wink:

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That is just a matter of time!

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Great explanation! I keep getting those wrong as well. Hopefully I’ll improve now


I know that you guys are working on this, I’m just wondering if it will be possible to make them all valid, but just prompt you for an alternate answer if you enter the wrong one. Reason being that I’d rather focus on practicing the conjunction and grammar of using them all, so I get my な/の/に’s right, I’d rather focus on the nuances afterwards, if that makes sense?


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Some of them are completely different though. A wrong answer is a wrong answer. It’s seems like there is a lot of overlap between よう and みたい, but I don’t think みたい is just a casual version of よう. Perhaps @mrnoone can comment more on that.


みたい is so-called 話し言葉(spoken word)、while よう is 書き言葉(written word). Though it doesn’t mean that よう is not used in speech.
The main difference(next to formality) is the grammar construction.
There has to be の if the noun precedes よう, or な if it is an な adjective. みたい doesn’t need that.
For example, construction ようにみえる can be used with みたい without changing meaning.
Though you have to remember there are other よう uses which cannot be replaced by みたい. Like ようになる、ようにする、よう(so that/in order to),ように言う・頼む・命じる。

No worries! :+1:
I will update those lessons soon, so the answers with the closest similar grammar points would be accepted, though still ask for a correct input.
Also, learning the nuance is very important, if it is not done in the beginning(especially since differences are easy to remember) it might cause a student to pick up bad habits.
Like @seanblue said, some have pretty strict rules, like demanding being direct observer.


@mrnoone I believe I got this one wrong yesterday by answering with みたいな instead of ような. Is there a reason they wouldn’t be interchangeable here?


Related to that, I noticed that all the examples for みたいに・みたいな use nouns before みたいに・みたいな, even though the structure says it can also be used after verbs.


No, it is OK. The alternate answer was not added yet!

That’s right, it can be used after verbs, for example:
He seems to be excited about hand shaking event with A chan.

Thank you for noticing the lack of examples of this kind, I will fix it.

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Just to add to the “looks like” list from hell (truly the bane of my existence)… Is there any way to distinguish between にみえる and よう・みたい?

It says that it’s a valid alternative in the grammar notes but it marks it wrong during the review.


Wouldn’t you need のような here for it to even be considered a valid alternative?

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You can say all of:

水痘のようニキビ。(you forgot な)

みえる would have a nuance of actually seeing the pimples.
Difference between のように/みたいにみえる and にみえる is minuscule. So just choose the one you want.

But most people would not care about such a nuance and use the shortest one. (みたいな in casual, のような in writing etc).

When it comes to bunpro, hints for those grammar points differ, so you can choose the correct one based on those :smile:


I think this can actually be a detriment though. It can easily result in memorizing Bunpro’s hint phrasing rather than learning the nuance…

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@seanblue We try to make our hints reflect the nuance of each grammar point as closely as possible. If a grammar point has a particular nuance or is primarily used in certain situations, we do our best to include that in the orange text below the review sentence. Cheers!

I understand that. I simply meant that memorizing that hint text is not the same as understanding the nuance.

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@seanblue You are absolutely correct and I apologize for the misunderstanding. Do you have a method that helps you in differentiating similar grammar points or grasping a certain grammar point’s nuance? Do you believe that fundamental, nuance-specific reviews, where you would have to select a particular nuance associated with a grammar point, would be beneficial? Or do you think that it really comes down to how much you are exposed to a certain nuance in different contexts that allows you to comprehend why one grammar point would be preferred over another? Any suggestions that you might have on how we could improve, whether it be adding rule-specific reviews or simply incorporating more sentences with more contexts, we would very much appreciate hearing them. Cheers!

That is indeed a problem. When I read the orange nuance hint I can tell the answer in most cases without reading the sentence.

I always start with hidden translation and hint so that I can read the sentence without any hints. But the orange nuance hint also shows when “review english” is set to “hide”. So I can even tell the answer without seeing the yellow hint or reading the sentence.

Maybe you should hide the orange nuance hint as well when users set “review english” ton"hide".

On the other hand the nuance hint is necessary because there are just way too many similar grammar points.

One solution could be: just show the nuance hint when the user uses a similar grammar point as his answer to guide him to the right grammar point.

Another way would be that you (Bunpro) try to define any possible alternative answer for each sentence and if the user types in one of these alternative answers you show ‘not looking for …’.
As for now, there are still lots of sentences where similar grammar is not added as alternative answer.


I don’t have any specific methods I use right now, unfortunately. I think sidestepping the nuance (mostly) in the regular SRS is probably fine. It could get really confusing to have too much focus on nuance there. For that, giving hints and warnings is probably sufficient.

However, I think developing a new study mode that focuses on nuances would be great. It could quiz you on similar grammar points together, through a combination of fill in the blank, matching, and whatever else. This section would likely need several dozen sentences per grammar point to be useful, but thankfully the number of grammar points that have nuanced differences is relatively small. Perhaps there’d be a way to quiz on the nuances themselves too, and not just through sentences (e.g. select the grammar point from this list that requires visual evidence).