How To Use “Like” （みたいに／ように） In Japanese : みたいに (mitai ni) and ように (yō ni) are used in the same way as “like” and “as” in English. Today, you will learn how to describe things in Japanese using mitai ni and yō ni.
Mitai can function as a na-adjective, a suffix, or an adverb. Yō can function as a suffix or a noun. When we add ni to the end, the phrase as a whole has the same effect as using “like” or “as.” Mitai ni is used in more casual conversations, whereas yō ni is used in more formal situations. Let’s look at a few examples below.
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Learn JLPT N4 Japanese – How to use “Looks & Seems” in Japanese
彼女はお母さん（みたいに／のように）見える — Kanojo wa o-kaasan (mitai ni / no yō ni) mieru — She looks like her mom
The Japanese word for “she” is 彼女 (kanojo). “Her mom” is 彼女のお母さん (kanojo no o-kaasan), but we don’t need to include “kanojo no” because it’s implied that we’re talking about her mom (as opposed to someone else’s). So, let’s construct the skeleton of our sentence by laying those two down:
Kanojo goes at the front of the sentence because that’s our subject, and o-kaasan goes at the end because that’s whom we’re comparing her to.
Now, let’s add mitai ni to make it a casual conversation. Since we are comparing the subject to o-kaasan, we stick mitai ni at the end of o-kaasan.
Now we need a verb. By attaching the word 見える (mieru) to mitai ni we get the common phrase used when saying something looks like something else.
To signify that kanojo is the subject of the sentence, all we have to do is go back, add は (wa). Now our sentence is complete!
Now, to make it a more formal sentence, we’re going to replace mitai ni with yō ni. However, since yō is a na-adjective, we have to connect it with o-kaasan (a noun) by using の (no).
(Also note that we are conjugating mieru to the -masu form to add politeness.)
Here are some other examples for saying something/someone looks like something/someone else:
あの雲は電車みたいに見える。(Ano kumo wa densha mitai ni mieru.)
That cloud looks like a train.
あの雲は電車のように見えます。(Ano kumo wa densha no yō ni miemasu.)
That cloud looks like a train. (Polite)
トミーはお化けを見たみたいに見える！(Tommy wa o-bake o mita mitai ni mieru!)
Tommy looks as if he’s seen a ghost!
トミーはお化けを見たように見えます！(Tommy wa o-bake o mita yō ni miemasu!)
Tommy looks as if he’s seen a ghost! (Polite)
(Notice in the above, we are not using “no” before “yō ni” because the word before it, “mita,” is a verb.)
When it comes to using mitai ni and yō ni, you can compare pretty much anything you want.
このりんごは星みたい（のよう）だ！(Kono ringo wa hoshi mitai / no yō da!)
This apple is like a star! (What a weird sentence!)
この寿司は今朝つられたみたいな（ような）味がしている！(Kono sushi wa kesa tsurareta mitai na / yō na aji ga shite iru!)
This sushi tastes like it was just caught this morning!
私は鳥みたいに（のように）自由と感じている！(Watashi wa tori mitai ni / no yō ni jiyuu to kanjite iru!)
I feel as free as a bird!
Now, let’s look at a different point.
あの犬は熊と同じように大きかった！ — Ano inu wa kuma to onaji yō ni ookikatta! — That dog was as big as a bear!
When we want to say something is as big, small, etc. as something else, we add “to onaji” after the thing/person we are comparing. Onaji is the Japanese word for “same” and “to” is the particle that connects it to the thing/person we’re comparing. Remember, though, that we’re not speaking literally. By adding yō ni, we are saying that the two things being compared are like the same, not actually the same. Let’s take a look at this sentence.
あの犬は熊と同じように大きかった！ (Ano inu wa kuma to onaji yō ni ookikatta!
That dog was as big as a bear!
Since onaji means “same,” if we were to literally translate it, it would sound something like, “That dog is the same as a bear, bigness-wise.”
Let’s use “to onaji” in a few other examples.
この家は先週見た家と同じようだ。(Kono ie wa senshuu mita ie to onaji yō da.)
This house is the same as the one we saw last week.
Notice that in the English translation, it’s implied that we’re not in some strange Black Mirror episode where the houses are literally identical. However, in Japanese, you have to be clear that they are not exactly the same by adding yō. Otherwise, the Japanese will actually think that they’re in a Black Mirror episode!
彼は貝と同じように嬉しい。(Karewa kai to onaji yō ni ureshii.)
He is as happy as a clam.
Actually, this is one of those English expressions that goes over the heads of most Japanese people when translated into Japanese. They think, “What? Clams? Happy? Can clams be happy? Is the shell supposed to be a smile or something?”
When I think of using mitai ni and yō ni I think of writing poetry or song lyrics. Why not give it a shot? Try writing a poem in Japanese to practice using today’s grammar point mitai ni and yō ni. Also, don’t forget to post your poem in the comments section!