Seem to be happy or Seem happy

Seem + to be + adjective or Seem + adjective


Seem = Gives a certain impression or have a certain outward aspect; the impression of being true, probable, or apparent; Seem is often followed by to be + an adjective:

He seems (to be) a perfect gentleman.

He has an authoritative manner and seems (to be) arrogant.

He seems to be in a bad mood at the moment about working on Sunday.


‘Seem(s)’ and ‘seem(s) to be’ are more often than not interchangeable and the difference is very subtle. However, it depends on whether we are expressing objective facts or subjective ideas:

The theatre seems to be jam-packed. (It is definitely full of audience).

According to locals, this banyan tree seems to be one hundred years old. (we believe the locals)

He seems drunk. (I guess so.)

He seems to be drunk. (His appearance tells us so)

The kids seem comfortable at the babysitter’s.                    

The kids seem to be comfortable at the babysitter’s.             

(both are correct with no difference in meaning)

However, see these examples:

It was Kim.         

It seemed Kim.    [the copular verbs like be (is, am, are, was, were), appear, seem, look, sound, smell, taste, feel, become and get can’t take a specifying PC]

It seemed to be Kim.  

With statements beginning with ‘there seem(s)’, ‘to be’ is used.

There seems to be some mix-up at the bank and we all received the wrong statements.

There seem to be some spelling errors writing the address of the recipient on the box and it was never delivered.


Usually there is no specific difference in meaning between ‘seem to be’ and ‘seem’; however, we prefer ‘seem to be’ when we mean something that looks to be definitely true (objective facts). On the contrary, we use ‘seem’ without ‘to be’ when the statement is based on personal feeling (subjective impression):

He seems to be unhappy with the results because he was confident he would win.          

It seems to be strange that despite his best efforts, he lost the election to the Tories.   

It seems strange that despite his best efforts, he lost the election to the Tories.           


We also use ‘seem(s) to be‘ when it’s followed by an -ing form:

He seems to be drowning as his motorboat capsizes.


With infinitives: They seem to have completed this task in time.
With like: This resort seems (like) a favourite tourist attraction for the rich and famous.


Notice that we don’t use ‘to be’ when ‘seem’ is followed by a clause with that, like, or as if/as though:

It seems (that) they will fly to Switzerland on honeymoon.

It seems like you have a bad influenza.

It seems as if this winter is never going to end.

It seems as if/as though he has no guts to say that to her face.


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