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I saw the sign

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Showing signs of something

In this lesson, we'll learn various expressions involving how to describe people who are expressing themselves without words. For example, we'll learn how to say expressions in Japanese such as "They acted as if they were saying goodbye," "He acted disgusted," and "She acts like she wants to go."

Showing outward signs of an emotion using 「~がる」

The 「~がる」 grammar is used when you want to make an observation about how someone is feeling. This is simply an observation based on some type of sign(s). Therefore, you would not use it for your own emotions since guessing about your own emotions is not necessary. This grammar can only be used with adjectives so you can use this grammar to say, "He is acting scared," but you cannot say "He acted surprised," because "to be surprised" is a verb in Japanese and not an adjective. This grammar is also commonly used with a certain set of adjectives related to emotions such as: 「嫌」、「怖い」、「嬉しい」、or 「恥ずかしい」.
Using 「~がる」 for observing the emotions or feelings of others
All adjectives that are conjugated with 「~がる」 become an u-verb
Non-Past怖がるact scared怖がらないnot act scared
Past怖がったacted scared怖がらなかったdidn't act scared


(1) 早くきてよ!何を恥ずかしがっているの?
- Hurry up and come here. What are you acting all embarrassed for?

(2) 彼女は朝早く起こされるのを嫌がるタイプです。
- My girlfriend is the type to show dislike towards getting woken up early in the morning.

(3) うちの子供はプールに入るのを理由もなく怖がる
- Our child acts afraid about entering a pool without any reason.

This grammar is also used to observe very frankly on what you think someone other than yourself wants. This involves the adjective 「欲しい」 for things one wants or the 「~たい」 conjugation for actions one wants to do, which is essentially a verb conjugated to an i-adjective. This type of grammar is more suited for things like narration in a story and is rarely used in this fashion for normal conversations because of its impersonal style of observation. For casual conversations, it is more common to use 「でしょう」 such as in, 「カレーを食べたいでしょう。」. For polite conversations, it is normal to not make any assumptions at all or to use the 「よね」 sentence ending such as in 「カレーを食べたいですか。」 or 「カレーを食べたいですよね。」


(1) 家に帰ったら、すぐパソコンを使いたがる
- [He] soon acts like wanting to use computer as soon as [he] gets home.

(2) みんなイタリアに行きたがってるんだけど、私の予算で行けるかどうかはとても怪しい。
- Everybody is acting like they want to go to Italy but it's suspicious whether I can go or not going by my budget.

(3) 妻はルイヴィトンのバッグを欲しがっているんだけど、そんなもん、買えるわけないでしょう!
- My wife was showing signs of wanting a Louis Vuitton bag but there's no way I can buy something like that!

「~がる」 is also used with 「屋」 to indicate a type of person that often feels a certain way such as 「恥ずかしがり屋」 (one who easily feels or acts embarrassed)、 「寒がり屋」 (one who easily feels cold)、or 「暑がり屋」 (one who easily feels hot).

(3) 私は寒がり屋だから、ミネソタで暮らすのは辛かった。
- I'm the type who easily gets cold and so living in Minnesota was painful.

Using 「ばかり」 to act as if one might do something

We just learned how to observe the emotions and feelings of other by using 「~がる」 with adjectives. But what about verbs? Indeed, there is a separate grammar used to express the fact that someone else looks like they are about to do something but actually does not. Similar to the 「~がる」 grammar, this is usually not used in normal everyday conversations. I have seen it several times in books and novels but have yet to hear this grammar in a conversation.

For the regular non-past, non-negative verb, you must first conjugate the verb to the negative ending with 「ん」, which was covered here. Then, you just attach 「ばかり」 to the end of the verb. For all other conjugations, nothing else is necessary except to just add 「ばかり」 to the verb. The most common verb used with this grammar is 「言う」 . It is also usually used with the 「に」 target particle attached to the end of 「ばかり」.

This grammar is completely different from the 「ばかり」 used to express amounts and the 「ばかり」 used to express the proximity of an action.

Using 「ばかり」 to indicate that one seems to want to do something
Summary of basic conjugations
Non-Past言わんばかりas if to say言わないばかりas if [she] doesn't say
Past言ったばかりas if [she] said言わなかったばかりas if [she] didn't say


(1) ボールは爆発せんばかりに、膨らんでいた。
- The ball was expanding as if it was going to explode.

(2) 「あんたと関係ない」と言わんばかりに彼女は彼を無視していた。
- She ignored him as if to say, "You have nothing to do with this."

(3) 昨日のケンカで何も言わなかったばかりに、平気な顔をしている。
- Has a calm face as if [he] didn't say anything during the fight yesterday.

Using 「めく」 to indicate an atmosphere of a state

By now, you're probably thinking, "Ok, we've done adjectives and verbs. What about nouns?" As a matter of fact, there is a similar grammar that is used usually for nouns and na-adjectives. It is used to indicate that something is showing the signs of a certain state. Unlike the 「~がる」 grammar, there is no action that indicates anything; merely the atmosphere gives off the impression of the state. Just like the previous grammar we learned in this section, this grammar has a list of commonly used nouns such as 「謎」、「秘密」、or 「皮肉」. This grammar is used by simply attaching 「めく」 to the noun or na-adjective. The result then becomes a regular u-verb.
Using 「めく」 to indicate that one seems to want to do something
Summary of basic conjugations
Non-Past謎めくpuzzling atmosphere*謎めかないnot puzzling atmosphere
Past謎めいたpuzzled atmosphere*謎めかなかったnot puzzled atmosphere

* I suppose the negative tenses are theoretically possible but probably not practically.
The most common tense is by the far the past tense.


(1) 紅葉が始まり、すっかり秋めいた空気になってきた。
- With the leaves starting to change color, the air came to become quite autumn like.

(2) そんな謎めいた顔をされても、うまく説明できないよ。
- Even having that kind of puzzled look done to me, I can't explain it very well, you know.

(3) いつも皮肉めいた言い方をしたら、みんなを嫌がらせるよ。
- You'll make everyone dislike you if you keep speaking with that ironic tone, you know.

For a whole slew of additional real world examples, check out the jeKai entry. It states that the grammar can be used for adverbs and other parts of speech but none of the numerous examples show this and even assuming it's possible, it's probably not practiced in reality.

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This page has last been revised on 2004/11/14