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A. It seemed as though the war had ended.

B. It seemed the war had ended.

What is the difference between these two sentences?

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It can't have the same meaning. If it did, then you could use either one. But you can't:

✔ It seemed the war had ended.
✘ It as though the war had ended.


The term as though is defined as a conjunction by Merriam-Webster:

: as if
// the applause was so great it was as though the toddler's dance class had been the Bolshoi Ballet

In the case of the sentence in the question, there are many variations that could also be used:

It seemed the war had ended.

It seemed as though the war had ended.
It seemed as if the war had ended.
It seemed like the war had ended.
It seemed that the war had ended.


As indicated by Merriam-Webster, as though is synonymous with as if. In this case, as if, like, and as though all act in such a way as to turn the sentence into a simile:

The surface of the water was like a mirror, reflecting my face.
The surface of the water, as though a mirror, reflected my face.
The surface of the water, as if a mirror, reflected my face.

Neither the version with only seemed on its own nor the version with seemed that have the same sense of simile.

Therefore, from a semantic perspective:

✔ It seemed as though the war had ended, but it hadn't.
✔ It seemed as if the war had ended, but it hadn't.
✔ It seemed like the war had ended, but it hadn't.

But:

✘ It seemed the war had ended, but it hadn't.
✘ It seemed that the war had ended, but it hadn't.

The last two don't make sense, because they don't have the same sense of simile that the others do. Hearing them, you'd think the speaker was confused. Was the war over or wasn't it?


In short, seemed on its own is a simple description of the situation:

It seemed the war had actually ended.

Adding as though to it, turns the sentence into a simile. With the addition of as though, it's no longer talking about the actual situation, it's drawing a comparison between it and something else:

Although it seemed as though the war had ended, it actually hadn't.

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That is an interesting question. I'm a native UK English speaker and I cannot discern any fundamental difference in meaning in these sentences whether or not "as though" is included.

It does, somehow, seem more appropriate to use "as though" in the first case,

It seemed as though the war had ended.

does feel better that

It seemed the war had ended.

but I would be hard pressed to define why.

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  • Would you feel better if the second sentence had "that" in it: It seemed that the war had ended? – AIQ Oct 5 '19 at 7:02
  • yes, though I still prefer "as though" - I suspect that we're into an issue of style and personal preference rather than one of correctness. – djna Oct 5 '19 at 8:56
  • Yes, absolutely, you are right. I actually can't make up my mind on which of the two I prefer. – AIQ Oct 5 '19 at 17:04

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