What is the meaning of "as if" in B?

A:The ceiling in this room doesn't look very safe, does it?

B:No, it looks as if it's going to fall down.

Can we omit it?

Another question, can we use will instead of going to... in B? I think, we are predicting the future and will is more common, isn't it?

  • 2
    "As if" is used to describe how something seems to be. "It looks it's going to fall down" is not a meaningful sentence in English. "As if" cannot be omitted, but like or as though could be used instead. – P. E. Dant Sep 11 '16 at 4:39
  • You can replace "going to" with "will" in this sentence without fundamentally changing the meaning. However, it does alter the nuance a little (in American English at least). I'm not sure if there's an overarching reason but to me, "will fall" sounds more certain than "going to fall". I feel like "going to" carries a sense of "probably" while "will" carries a sense of "almost certainly". – G-Cam Sep 11 '16 at 6:34
  • 2
    @Aref - Why do you think as if could, or ought to be, omitted from the sentence? (Native speakers will almost always use it's going to rather than it will in a conversation like the one you quote.) – P. E. Dant Sep 11 '16 at 7:18
  • I think you could omitt "as if" without changing the meaning. As shown here it is used also to replace the conjunction "that". As if : merriam-webster.com/dictionary/as%20if – user5267 Sep 11 '16 at 7:18

What is the meaning of "as if" in B?

The sentence is a Simple Sentence with one subject it and one verb looks. What comes after the verb is called a subordinating conjunction "as if," that is use with an adverb dependent clauses like "as if it's going to fall down." The adverb clause, like a single adverb, modifies either an adjective, verb, or adverb in the sentence. In yours, it is modifying the verb looks, and answers, like an adverb "How?" (under what conditions); How does it look? As if it's going to fall down.

You can use, "...as if it will fall down." The Future Tense "expresses the expectation of action." Because it looks really really shaky, you expect it to collapse at any minute.


Here, as if could be replaced with like or as though. It conveys similarity, but at a distance; just how similar the two things are is vague, unclear, or not yet established. As if cannot be omitted or replaced with that, because it's required to connect the two clauses and express the particular meaning of uncertain similarity.

B is saying that the ceiling might collapse at some unknown future time. Tone of voice will and context can provide more information to narrow the scope of the statement; in this case, the implication is that B believes if the ceiling were to collapse, it would happen fairly soon.

Another question, can we use will instead of going to... in B?

Yes. Doing so would change the meaning, though. Both will and going to are completely routine, correct, and commonplace ways of predicting future action. Will is more definite than going to, however. It's also more flexible a word in general, so those many different uses are probably what makes it seem a more common choice than going to.

Making this change, B's statement becomes more definite: the ceiling is definitely going to fall, and only the timing remains uncertain. The implication of soon remains, so it would be a noticeably stronger warning against entering the room.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.