Unit 108. As if

You can use as if to say how someone or something looks/sounds/feels, etc.:

  • The house looked as if nobody was living in it.
  • Ann sounds as if she’s got a cold, doesn’t she?
  • I’ve just come back from vacation, but I feel tired and depressed. I don’t feel as if I’ve had a vacation.


  • You look tired, (look + adjective) You look as if you haven’t slept, (look + as if + subject + verb)
  • Tom sounded worried, (sound + adjective) Tom sounded as if he was worried, (sound + as if + subject + verb)

    You can use as though instead of as if:

  • Ann sounds as though she’s got a cold.

    You can also say It looks/sounds/smells as if (or as though):

  • Tom is very late, isn’t he? It looks as if he isn’t coming.
  • We took an umbrella because it looked as if it was going to rain.
  • Do you hear that music next door? It sounds as if they are having a party, doesn’t it?
  • It smells as though someone has been smoking in here.

    After It looks/sounds/smells, many people use like instead of as if / as though:

  • It looks like Tom isn’t coming.

    You can also use as if with other verbs to say how someone does something:

  • He ran as if he were running for his life.
  • After the interruption, she continued talking as if nothing had happened.
  • When I told them my plan, they looked at me as if I were insane.

    After as if we sometimes use the past when we are talking about the present. For example:

  • I don’t like Norman. He talks as if he knew everything.

    The meaning is not past in this sentence. We use the past (“as if he knew”) because the idea is not real: Norman does not know everything. We use the past in the same way in if sentences and after wish (see Unit 35).

    When we use the past in this way, we use were instead of was:

  • Harry’s only 50. Why do you talk about him as if he were (or was) an old man?
  • They treat me as if I were (or was) their own son. (I’m not their son.)
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