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a. Those kids were talking as in gangster movies.

b. Those kids were talking as if in a gangster movie.

(Meaning: They were talking the way they do in gangster movies.)

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c. The workers in the toy shop were wearing masks and capes, as in superhero movies.

d. The workers in the toy shop were wearing masks and capes, as if in a superhero movie.

(Meaning: They were wearing masks and capes, and in that respect they were similar to people in superhero movies.)

Are the above sentences grammatically correct?

Do they correspond to the given meanings?

In (a) and (b) we're talking about the manner in which something is done. In (c) and (d), the similarity is not really in the manner, but in the simple fact that they were wearing masks and capes. The fact that they were wearing masks and capes is what creates the similarity, but the manner in which the masks and capes are worn is not important.

I want to see if a comma before 'as in' and 'as if in' would change the meaning and turn the phrase from defining (the manner) to non-defining (the very fact is similar and the manner is not even an issue).

Many thanks.

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When you are talking about something that actually happens, you can use as:

Rob got quite drunk at the party, as he usually does.

You are talking about hypothetical situation, so you cannot use as. as if is the correct form for hypothetical situation.

Rob acted as if he owned the place.

As if must be followed by a complete clause, including a verb:

b. Those kids were talking as if they were in a gangster movie

d. The workers in the toy shop were wearing masks and capes, as if they were in a superhero movie.

A comma cannot be inserted before as if in example b) because the as if clause is an important part of the main sentence- it defines the way that the children were talking.

A comma may be inserted before as if in example d) because the as if clause is non-defining: it is simply providing additional information.

Note: informally, you can replace as if with like:

b. Those kids were talking like they were in a gangster movie

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