Having taken into account the following- especially, italic and bold parted- would you possibly show me if we could omit to be always? in other word, could we write or say seem instead of seem to be ? or seem to be instead of seem?

Excerpted from Swan's book, Practical English Usage:

seem and seem to be

Seem is often followed by to be. We prefer seem to be when we are talking about objective facts - things that seem definitely to be true. Seem is used without to be when we are talking about subjective impressions. (The difference is not always clear-cut, and both are often possible.) Compare:

- -


The bus seems to be full.

She seems excited.

The doctors have done the tests, and he definitely seems to be mentally ill.

It seems crazy, but I think I'm in love with the postman. (NOT It seems t8 he eM£y •.•)

According to the experts, the north side ofthe castle seems to be about 100 years older than the rest.

He seems older than he is. (NOT He seents ttJ he tJltler than he is - this would suggest that he might actually be older than he is.)

She doesn't seem to be ready yet. She seems (to be) very sleepy today.

Another link may be helpful: Page 42 the part B: enter link description here


2 Answers 2


You can use seem or seem to be before a gradable adjective or a noun phrase as follows:

He seems or seems to be happy.

Adam seems or seems to be a nice man.

On the other hand, you usually use "to be" before a non-gradable adjective. You should also use "to be" before a noun phrase having the determiner a or the but not an adjective, the -ing form of a verb, etc. as follows:

They seem to be asleep.

The dog seems to be alive.

Philip seems to be sleeping.

It seems to be raining.

You seem to be the owner of this house.

It seems to be a problem.

Moreover, you should use seem without to be when there is the preposition "to" after an adjective such as "This matter seems important to me".

I think this explanation will help the OP find answers to the questions asked in his post.


I would venture to say that we don't use "to be" here:

It seems crazy, but I think I'm in love with the postman.

because "it" there is "dummy"-it and thus has no existence.

Alternatively: Seems when it refers to a surmise supports "to be", whereas seems when used to mean "gives the impression of being" does not support "to be".

  • But an even more clear-cut context is It seems to be raining. Which also involves dummy "it", but no native speaker would say It seems raining. Aug 1, 2015 at 11:46
  • There the question seems to me to be a different one: we no longer have an adjective (crazy, full, ill, old, etc) which must inhere in some nominal entity, but a verb-phrase.
    – TimR
    Aug 1, 2015 at 11:52
  • Do you think there is such a thing as a quasi-dummy-it or a meta-it? Is "it" in "It seems crazy, but..." standing in apposition to the declaration "I'm in love with the postman"? I wonder... Deictic-it?
    – TimR
    Aug 1, 2015 at 11:57
  • It seems unlikely that idiomatic preference here depends on which type of dummy "it" is involved. I'm not 100% convinced by Swan's distinction (it's a "post-hoc" explanation, not something native speakers are consciously aware of at time of speaking). But I must admit that (for me, at least) including to be in the first sentence of this comment would suggest that I'm about to present additional evidence attesting to the assertion (i.e. - of an emerging "objective fact"). Without it (the more common form), I'm just reporting my (subjective?) impression, backed up by nothing at all. Aug 1, 2015 at 12:12
  • 1
    Thanks. But, I can never ever get your explanations and my answer either.
    – nima
    Aug 1, 2015 at 13:04

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .