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Dr Grammar

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Posted by TC5   7 Jul 2015 2 45 am

When should we use 'to be' after a main verb in a sentence.
For example: My watch seems defective V.S. My watch seems to be defective.
Is there any different in meaning?

Thanks.

 
 

Teacher
Posted by alex stringer   8 Jul 2015 3 56 pm

Good question.Yes, there is sometimes a difference (although I haven't found a dictionary that notes this).

Michael Swan in Practical English Usage suggests that seems to be is preferred when talking about objective facts; seems + adjective is used more for subjective impressions, but sometimes both are possible.

Consider these examples:


It seems simple enough, but actually it's quite difficult.
It seems to be simple enough, but actually it's quite difficult. X

This is clearly a subjective impression, so the second one would not be used.


The room seems bigger than it actually is.
The room seems to be bigger than it actually is. X

This too is clearly a subjective impression, so the second one would not be used.

The photocopier seems to be broken
The photocopier seems broken. X

This is more of an objective fact: the photocopier isn't working so it is likely that it's broken - it's not just a subjective impression.


There seems to be a problem with your account.
There seems a problem with your account. X

The second one is not possible. When seem is followed by noun (not an adjective) the infinitive must follow seem


She seemed annoyed
She seemed to be annoyed

Both are possible - there is no real difference in meaning.


It seems simple enough.
It seems to be simple enough.

Both possible; no difference in meaning.

Hope this helps.

Dr G

 
 

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