Today’s Grammar Point:  ~とみえる

I have explained how the verb える is used in a simple sentence in this post. Today, I’m going to talk about ~とみえる which means almost the same as ~らしい. This ~とみえる follows a clause and it means “it seems ~”. A clause is a part of a sentence with a subject and a predicate although in Japanese the subject is often implied, not clearly expressed.


In Japanese predicate could be a verb, an いadjective or a なadjective/noun with an auxiliary verb, so と見える is used in the following fashion:

  • [plain form verb (past\non-past, affirmative negative)] とえる
  • [いadj stem] い/かった とえる
  • [なadj](だ)/だった とえる
  • [noun] (だ)/だった とえる


John seems to be very concerned about Amy.

Amy doesn’t seem to care about John.

It look like it rained. The vegetation is lush.

It seems John has had a hard time. He cherishes his friendship.

As it appears there are many late-night shoppers, the shop has extended its open hours.

Amy seems to have been very busy this week. Even on weekends, she still seems tired.

Amy seems to like cherry blossoms and only takes pictures of them.

It seems the next door is away. The mailbox is overflowing.

Difference between ~く/にえる and ~とえる

Earlier, I said ~く/にえる is used in a simple sentence and ~とえる is used after a clause. What that really means is that in a ~く/にえる sentence, “the subject looks/looked ~,” so the speaker (who is not the subject of the sentence) is making a statement based on a visual information about the subject. On the other hand, ~とえる is a general conjecture statement, not necessarily based on a visual piece of information.

It seems Amy is thin.
This could be guessed from what the speaker has heard or some secondary information.
Cf. エイミーさんはほそえる。
Amy looks thin.
This statement is a first hand statement of the speaker based on what he/she saw directly.

It seems John is well.
This could be based on a secondary information the speaker obtained.
Cf. ジョンさんは元気げんきえる。
John looks well.
This is a first-hand statement of the speaker based on the visual information the speaker obtained directly.

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