She looks ..... she ........ a ghost.

1) as if, saw

2) as though, had seen

 

Which option is right here? (Source: A mock test which was held in Iran)

Original Post
@Freeguy posted:

She looks ..... she ........ a ghost.
1) as if, saw
2) as though, had seen

Hi, Freeguy—Either "as if" for "as though" can be used; they mean the same thing. However, only "had seen" makes sense in the dependent clause. If she had seen a ghost, she would look as she does now. With "saw," it would be important to add "just" ("just saw") to clarify that past time meaning is intended.

  • She looks as if she had seen a ghost (a moment ago).
  • She looks as if she were seeing a ghost (right now).
  • She looks as if she just saw a ghost (a moment ago).

Hi, David,

Hi, Freeguy—Either "as if" for "as though" can be used; they mean the same thing. However, only "had seen" makes sense in the dependent clause. If she had seen a ghost, she would look as she does now. With "saw," it would be important to add "just" ("just saw") to clarify that past time meaning is intended.

  • She looks as if she had seen a ghost (a moment ago).
  • She looks as if she were seeing a ghost (right now).
  • She looks as if she just saw a ghost (a moment ago).

In 'English Grammar In Use' by Raymond Murphy, page (237), he gives the following example provided by its answer:

 - Claire comes into the room. She looks absolutely terrified.

You say to her: What’s the matter? You look as if you’ve seen a ghost. /
… as if you saw a ghost.

I see that 'have seen' is the better one as it keeps the mood in the present and to be more emphatic that is a real situation or maybe more indicative that I believe in ghosts. Using 'saw' seems related to the subjunctive mood, I guess.  I think 'had seen' is a  past subjunctive mood. I believe we can also create another mood by using 'She looked as if she had seen a ghost', but there might be a difference in meaning. What do you think? You know I always appreciate your opinion.

Last edited by ahmed_btm
  
@ahmed_btm posted:

In 'English Grammar In Use' by Raymond Murphy, page (237), he gives the following example provided by its answer:

 - Claire comes into the room. She looks absolutely terrified.

You say to her: What’s the matter? You look as if you’ve seen a ghost. /
… as if you saw a ghost.

Hi, Ahmed,

I have the second edition of "English Grammar in Use" and in Unit 117 As if I can see in exercise 117.2 (page 235) a similar situation solved differently in the Key:

 - Christine comes into the room. She looks absolutely terrified.

You say to her: What’s the matter? You look as if you’ve seen a ghost.

The point is that, with some verbs, the past is used to refer to the present. Murphy says on page 234:

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

- I don't like Norma. She talks as if she knew everything.

Murphy then explains that this is unreal past (i.e. subjunctive) and adds that, if the verb be is used, "were" can be used instead of "was":

- 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 think that adding "just," as David suggested, is necessary to make "saw" sound like past rather than present.

Last edited by Gustavo, Contributor

Hi, Gustavo,

  

Hi, Ahmed,

I have the second edition of "English Grammar in Use" and in Unit 117 As if I can see in exercise 117.2 (page 235) a similar situation solved differently in the Key:

 - Christine comes into the room. She looks absolutely terrified.

You say to her: What’s the matter? You look as if you’ve seen a ghost.

The point is that, with some verbs, the past is used to refer to the present. Murphy says on page 234:

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

- I don't like Norma. She talks as if she knew everything.

Murphy then explains that this is unreal past (i.e. subjunctive) and adds that, if the verb be is used, "were" can be used instead of "was":

- 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 think that adding "just," as David suggested, is necessary to make "saw" sound like past rather than present.

Yes, I've read it, Gustavo. I don't object to using 'just' before 'saw'. I have just wanted to check my understanding of the following four sentences:

a) You look as if you’ve seen a ghost. (present - present - real mood)
b) You look as if you saw a ghost. (present - past simple - subjunctive mood)

c) You look as if you had seen a ghost. (present - past perfect - subjunctive mood)

d) You looked as if you had seen a ghost. (past - past - real mood)

@ahmed_btm posted:

I have just wanted to check my understanding of the following four sentences:

a) You look as if you’ve seen a ghost. (present - present - real mood)
b) You look as if you saw a ghost. (present - past simple - subjunctive mood)

c) You look as if you had seen a ghost. (present - past perfect - subjunctive mood)

d) You looked as if you had seen a ghost. (past - past - real mood)

As opposed to David's "were seeing," which refers to an unreal present (the person is not seeing a ghost but looks as if (s)he were), my understanding of "(just) saw" (similar to "have seen") in (b) is that the person may have actually seen a ghost (real past).

I agree with your interpretation of (c) and (d).

In both (b) and (d) the presence of "as if" makes it sound as if the actual sight of a ghost is or was a possibility.

As opposed to David's "were seeing," which refers to an unreal present (the person is not seeing a ghost but looks as if (s)he were), my understanding of "(just) saw" (similar to "have seen") in (b) is that the person may have actually seen a ghost (real past).

I agree with your interpretation of (c) and (d).

In both (b) and (d) the presence of "as if" makes it sound as if the actual sight of a ghost is or was a possibility.

In my opinion, "were seeing" seems a little bit odd. Its meaning is different from the others. I agree with you concerning 'b', however, if I weren't a believer in ghosts, 'saw' (without using just) might be in the subjunctive mood (if I believe we don't see ghosts as they aren't found).

Last edited by ahmed_btm

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