A large part of what I do is critiquing, in writing, the work of others. I am constantly wondering if I am structuring my sentences correctly. Part of the challenge is that I need to temper my opinion by saying 'appears to,' 'seems,' etc.

If, for example, I am trying to express whether the person's conclusion is reasonable and adequately supported, should I say "The conclusion appears to be reasonable and adequately supported." or should I say "The conclusion appears reasonable and adequately supported."

Whichever is right, I'd appreciate an explanation of why one way is right and the other is wrong.

Also, in this case, are 'reasonable' and 'adequately' adverbs?

Thank you!

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    I believe in your sentence reasonable is an adjective (modifying conclusion) and adequately is an adverb (modifying supported). – J.R. Nov 17 '17 at 16:54
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    This might be a question of style and effect rather than a question of right or wrong. – Gary Botnovcan Nov 17 '17 at 17:31

If you want to make your writing appear less opinionated and less judgemental, you may consider looking at the principles of E-prime, "a version of the English language that excludes all forms of the verb to be".

Besides the information in the Wikipedia entry, you may find a concise explanation and demonstration in episode 196 of the podcast Math mutations. This Link to iTunes may work for you.

According to E-prime "appears" can be used instead of "is". Using "appears to be" may be considered equivalent by English speakers, but it still uses "to be", which E-prime forbids (as it logically claims equivalence of two things).

Omission of "to be" would also create a shorter statement of the same message, which some people consider as an improvement.

Therefore, "appears" (without "to be") seems like a better choice.

  • I encourage everyone to read the "criticisms" section in the Wikipedia article. What a terrible idea. – phoog Nov 18 '17 at 15:14
  • Saying "this is a terrible idea" is judgemental.. 😀 I would not recommend adopting this writing style to full extent, but I find it interesting and worth thinking about. – laugh Nov 18 '17 at 16:38
  • I don't deny that what I said is judgmental, and I hesitated about saying it, but the argument in the Wikipedia article did the opposite of convincing me in favor of the practice. – phoog Nov 18 '17 at 17:47

"The conclusion appears to be reasonable and adequately supported." [more formal]

"The conclusion appears reasonable and adequately supported." [slightly less formal]

reasonable=adjective adequately=adverb, modifying supported. There is no semantic difference (difference in meaning) between the two.


Using words like "to be" or really any conjugation ("is," "was," "am," etc.) can result in "passive voice." Passive voice often obscures the meaning of a sentence (for example, "People love John." vs. "John is loved"). In the "John is loved" example, it leaves you wondering "... By whom?"

The comment above correctly identifies this as a matter of taste/style, but avoiding passive voice can make your writing easier to understand. On top of that, the option without "to be" is shorter, so why not use it?

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    While your first sentence is true, the use of "to be" in the example does not result in passive voice. – phoog Nov 18 '17 at 15:09

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