This question already has an answer here:

First, here's a material that made me keep thinking about this issue in the first place.


He seems as if he hasn't slept for days

because of a tough project he has been working on, he stayed at the office for days. So, he hasn't slept for days.

He seems as if he hadn't slept for days.

He has slept quite well, but he looks tired like a person who hasn't slept for days.

I'm trying to figure out how to use 'as if' more concisely. If you could help me, it would mean the world to me.

Thanks in advance

marked as duplicate by Chenmunka, M.A.R., JMB, ColleenV, Lucian Sava Mar 2 '15 at 16:51

This question has been asked before and already has an answer. If those answers do not fully address your question, please ask a new question.

  • Er, the comment I placed in your other thread is applicable here too. That is:: You might be interested in the info in the 2002 CGEL, in the section "As if and as though" on pages 1151-4. Their example [43.ii] on pages 1153-4 might especially interest you. When the matrix clause is headed by a past-tense clause, then, when the subordinate clause involves a past-perfect construction, it is often possible that the perfect can be used for either backshift or for past time (or for modal remoteness) and it can sometimes be unclear or ambiguous as to which it is. :) – F.E. Mar 2 '15 at 4:39

As in your other "as if" questions, the only difference in your examples is usage of tense. Using present "seems" with past perfect "hadn't slept" is inconsistent. One could imagine it meaning "I know he slept OK last night, but prior to that he must have missed several days' sleep", but most native speakers would take it as an error in agreement of tense.

Please first study up on agreement of tense before tackling subtleties of "as if" and nuances of "felt" vs "seemed" vs "thought".
Then, you might be able to combine your questions in one. For now, I am voting your other "as if " as duplicate.

  • I don't agree with your opinion that present tense in superordinate clause can not be compatible with past perfect tense in subordinate clause. please check this website grammaring.com/as-if-as-though – jihoon Mar 2 '15 at 4:57
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    My mistake. It just looks exactly like past perfect, so I took it as past perfect, but it's subjunctive instead. My mistake is, I believe, due to the "ambiguity" that F.E. refers to. – Brian Hitchcock Mar 2 '15 at 7:13

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