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ジョンさんは このケーキが  すき みたいだ。

Which one is the closest?

  1. ジョンさんは このケーキが  すき そうだ。
  2. ジョンさんは このケーキが  すきだ そうだ。
  3. ジョンさんは このケーキが  すき らしい。
  4. ジョンさんは このケーキが  すきな ようだ。

みたい、らしい、そう、よう are all used to describe your allegation, judgement or prediction based on what you have seen or heard. They are similar but not the same. Today I will try to explain the differences.

The question sentence ジョンさんは このケーキが すき みたいだ means “It looks like John likes this cake.” That is, the speaker is expressing his/her judgement based on the observation that John likes the cake. I think I can say みたいだ is used for a statement of a judgement based on a rather objective observation and is more often used in speech rather than in a written passage. If the speaker is emotionally involved in a situation, みたいだ is not usually used.

Stem + そうだ

The pattern [stem] そうだ as in the “choice a” is also stating the speaker’s judgement from the speaker’s direct experience that whatever preceding そうだ is happening now or is likely to happen soon, so grammatically speaking, it seems possible to say ジョンさんは このケーキが  すき そうだ  in the meaning of “I think John likes this cake.” However, this sentence irks me. It gives me the feeling something is missing although it is not grammatically wrong. Anyway, it doesn’t quite mean “I think John likes this cake.”

If this sentence is used alone, that would mean either:

I think John will like this cake (over many other cakes).
or
I think it will be John that will like this cake (although others won’t like it).

And not saying the part in the brackets gives an uneasy feeling.

I can’t really explain why it is so but the most likely reason for that is that this pattern, [stem]そうだ is used when the speaker is emotionally involved in the situation, so unless within a statement of sympathy/empathy like ジョンさんは かなしそうだ (John looks sad), this type of statement is usually accompanied by some suggestion of action and/or a follow up comment. For instance:

ジョンさんは このケーキが すき そうだ。だから、これに する。
I think John likes this cake. So I will decide on this.
or
ジョンさんは このケーキが すき そうだとおもったけど、ジョンさんは たべなかった。
I thought John would like this cake, but he didn’t eat it.

Anyway, while a. is not ungrammatical, a is definitely not the correct answer for my question.

Plain form + そうだ

b. ジョンさんは このケーキが  すきだ そうだ means “I hear John likes this cake.” The pattern of [plain form] そうだ is an expression to relay something you’ve heard from a known source to somebody else. So, b. is quite different from the originalみたいだ sentence.

FYI, in May, I wrote this post ~そうです and talked about the difference between “[stem] そうです” (as in the sentence a) and “[plain form] そうです” (as in b). Please read it again if you have had trouble translating these 2 sentences.

Verb/いadj Plain form + らしい or noun/なadj + らしい

c. ジョンさんは このケーキが  すき らしい is also an expression to relay what you have heard but らしい is often used when the source is unknown or when you want to be vague about the source. Again c. is quite different from the original みたいだ sentence.

Verb/いadj Plain form + ようだ or noun + の + ようだ or なadj + な + ようだ

d. ジョンさんは このケーキが  すきな ようだ means “It seems that John likes this cake” and this conveys the speaker’s judgement based on the speaker’s experience.

The answer to today’s question

So the closest to ジョンさんは このケーキが  すき みたいだ is this d. ジョンさんは このケーキが  すきな ようだ.

ようだ is often used in a written sentence, rather than in a conversation.

I hope my explanation makes sense. If you have any further question, please feel free to write that in the comment field below.

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