I've searched the relevent questions but they didn't include what I was looking for.

I have two questions about 'as if'. Q 1 is about grammar and Q 2 is about meaning.

Q 1: I know we use 'as if' when we want to say 'as would be the case if'. For example we say, "she behaves as if she wasn't here" to mean she acts in a way that makes you think she was'nt here, but we know that she's really here right now.

If we want to talk about the same situation but in the past, should we go one more tense back or not? Which sentence is right?

She behaved as if she hadn't been here.

She behaved as if she wasn't here.

Q 2: can we use 'as if' when we want to make a strong guess about what we infer is true? (You see in the first example above she is really here, but she makes you think she wasn't here. But here I intend to make a realistic inference)

For example, we see friend 1 and he seems to be sleepy so we infer that he might not have got enough sleep last night. So when we see friend 2 we share what we think must be true about friend 1. Can we say:

'he looked as if he didn't get (hadn't got) enough sleep.'

I put the bracket in my example because I'm not sure which one is gramatically correct (the problem I put in Q 1)

  • Q1: I'm not sure what you are getting at: how can somebody pretend not to be here when surely you can see them and they can see you? Q2: I would use "as though" for inferences.
    – JavaLatte
    Mar 8, 2016 at 20:26
  • Yea, for example number 1, think of a person who tries to ignore everything that is happening around her. She might not care, or wants to hurt someone, or for any reason but the point is the way she behaves makes you think she wasn't here. Or let me make another example. 'She behaves as if she was a poor woman', but you know for certain she's very rich.
    – Yuri
    Mar 8, 2016 at 20:33
  • And by the way my question isn't about whether 'as if' is appropriate or 'as though'. I always thought they have the same meaning 😮 now that you're bringing it up, really? They're different?
    – Yuri
    Mar 8, 2016 at 20:36
  • I have checked the Concise Oxford Dictionary, which says "as though = as if".
    – JavaLatte
    Mar 8, 2016 at 20:45
  • OK, thank you for that. Anyway that wasn't the point of my question.
    – Yuri
    Mar 8, 2016 at 20:55

1 Answer 1



She behaved as if she hadn't been here.

This means that, at the time you are talking about, she behaved as if she had not been here on some previous occasion.

She behaved as if she wasn't here.

This has the meaning that you are looking for: at the time you are talking about, she behaved as if she were not a part of her surroundings.

Q2: There may be a difference between English and American usage on this one, but I (English) would go for

He looked as if he hadn't had enough sleep.

  • Oh you mean the one with 'hadn't been' means she hadn't had the experience of being here before. So what you imply is based on the context I gave we always use simple past after 'as if'. Right?
    – Yuri
    Mar 8, 2016 at 20:48
  • You use the appropriate tense for the situation you want to describe: in this case, yes. If you wanted to describe a continuous behaviour, you would use past continuous for the appropriate part: "she acted as if she was walking on on broken glass", or "she was always acting as if she knew everybody".
    – JavaLatte
    Mar 8, 2016 at 21:00
  • What about Q 2? Can we use as if for a realistic inference? Or we can use it just for metaphors, or unreal situations?
    – Yuri
    Mar 8, 2016 at 21:04
  • According to the COD, yes, although i would prefer "as though" for inference.
    – JavaLatte
    Mar 8, 2016 at 21:11
  • COD you mean Call of Duty?!
    – Yuri
    Mar 8, 2016 at 21:12

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