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」


  1. 嫌 【いや】 (na-adj) disagreeable; unpleasant
  2. 怖い 【こわ・い】 (i-adj) – scary
  3. 嬉しい 【うれ・しい】 (i-adj) – happy
  4. 恥ずかしい 【は・ずかしい】 (i-adj) – embarrassing
  5. 早い 【はや・い】 (i-adj) – fast; early
  6. する (exception) – to do
  7. 何 【なに/なん】 – what
  8. いる (ru-verb) – to exist (animate)
  9. 彼女 【かの・じょ】 – she; girlfriend
  10. 朝 【あさ】 – morning
  11. 起こす 【お・こす】 (u-verb) – to cause, to wake someone
  12. タイプ – type
  13. うち – referring to one’s in-group, i.e. company, etc.
  14. 子供 【こ・ども】 – child
  15. プール – pool
  16. 入る 【はい・る】 (u-verb) – to enter
  17. 理由 【り・ゆう】 – reason
  18. ある (u-verb) – to exist (inanimate)
  19. 欲しい 【ほ・しい】 (i-adj) – desirable
  20. カレー – curry
  21. 食べる 【た・べる】 (ru-verb) – to eat
  22. 家 【1) うち; 2) いえ】 – 1) one’s own home; 2) house
  23. 帰る 【かえ・る】 (u-verb) – to go home
  24. すぐ – soon
  25. パソコン – computer, PC
  26. 使う 【つか・う】 (u-verb) – to use
  27. 皆 【みんな】 – everybody
  28. イタリア – Italy
  29. 行く 【い・く】 (u-verb) – to go
  30. 私 【わたし】 – me, myself, I
  31. 予算 【よ・さん】 – budget
  32. どう – how
  33. とても – very
  34. 怪しい 【あや・しい】 (i-adj) – suspicious; dubious; doubtful
  35. 妻 【つま】 – wife
  36. バッグ – bag
  37. そんな – that sort of
  38. もん – object (short for もの)
  39. 買う 【か・う】 (u-verb) – to buy
  40. 訳 【わけ】 – meaning; reason; can be deduced
  41. 恥ずかしがり屋 【は・ずかしがり・や】 – one who easily feels or acts embarrassed
  42. 寒がり屋 【さむ・がり・や】 – one who easily feels cold
  43. 暑がり屋 【あつ・がり・や】 – one who easily feels hot
  44. ミネソタ – Minnesota
  45. 暮らす 【く・らす】 (u-verb) – to live
  46. 辛い 【つら・い】 (i-adj) – harsh

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

  • For i-adjectives: Remove the last 「い」 from the i-adjective and then attach 「がる」
  • Example: 怖 → 怖がる
  • For na-adjectives: Attach 「がる」 to the end of the na-adjective
  • Example: 嫌 → 嫌がる

All adjectives that are conjugated with 「~がる」 become an u-verb
Positive Negative
Non-Past 怖がる
act scared
not act scared
Past 怖がった
acted scared
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).

  • 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


  1. 言う 【い・う】 (u-verb) – to say
  2. ボール – ball
  3. 爆発 【ばく・はつ】 – explosion
  4. する (exception) – to do
  5. 膨らむ 【ふく・らむ】 (u-verb) – to expand; to swell
  6. あんた – you (slang)
  7. 関係 【かん・けい】 – relation, relationship
  8. ある (u-verb) – to exist (inanimate)
  9. 彼女 【かの・じょ】 – she; girlfriend
  10. 彼 【かれ】 – he; boyfriend
  11. 無視 【む・し】 – ignore
  12. 昨日【きのう】 – yesterday
  13. 喧嘩 【けん・か】 – quarrel
  14. 何 【なに/なん】 – what
  15. 平気 【へい・き】 (na-adj) – coolness; calmness
  16. 顔 【かお】 – face

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

  • For present, non-negative: Conjugate the verb to the 「ん」 negative form and attach 「ばかり」
  • Example: 言 → 言わない → 言わ → 言わんばかり
  • For all other tenses: Attach 「ばかり」 to the end of the verb
  • Example: 言わなかった → 言わなかったばかり

Summary of basic conjugations
Positive Negative
Non-Past 言わんばかり
as if to say
as if [she] doesn’t say
Past 言ったばかり
as if [she] said
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. 「あんたとは関係ない」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. 昨日の喧嘩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


  1. 謎 【なぞ】 – puzzle
  2. 秘密 【ひ・みつ】 – secret
  3. 皮肉 【ひ・にく】 – irony
  4. 紅葉 【こう・よう】 – leaves changing color
  5. 始まる 【はじ・まる】 (u-verb) – to begin
  6. すっかり – completely
  7. 秋 【あき】 – autumn
  8. 空気 【くう・き】 – air; atmosphere
  9. なる (u-verb) – to become
  10. そんな – that sort of
  11. 顔 【かお】 – face
  12. する (exception) – to do
  13. うまい (i-adj) – skillful; delicious
  14. 説明 【せつ・めい】 – explanation
  15. 出来る 【で・き・る】 (ru-verb) – to be able to do
  16. いつも – always
  17. 言う 【い・う】 (u-verb) – to say
  18. ~方 【~かた】 – way of doing ~
  19. 皆 【みんな】 – everybody
  20. 嫌 【いや】 (na-adj) disagreeable; unpleasant

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

  • Attach 「めく」 to the noun or na-adjective. The result then becomes a regular u-verb.
  • Example: 謎 → 謎めく

Summary of basic conjugations
Positive Negative
Non-Past 謎めく
puzzling atmosphere
not puzzling atmosphere
Past 謎めいた
puzzled atmosphere
not puzzled atmosphere

*The negatives conjugations are theoretically possible but are not likely used. The most common usage is 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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