“It Seems” vs. “It Seems That” – Difference Explained

The phrases “it seems,” and “it seems that,” both indicate a viewpoint about someone or something. You may wonder if they are interchangeable and can be used in the same context. Here we describe the difference between the phrases and additional guidance to help you determine which one to use.

What Is The Difference Between “It Seems” And “It Seems That”?

The overall meaning of “it seems” and “it seems that,” is the same. Both phrases indicate that something “appears” a certain way. Choose “it seems” if the phrase is followed by an adjective or the preposition “to.” Choose “it seems that” if the phrase is followed by a noun subject.

It Seems vs. It Seems That

In conversational language, the two expressions are often used synonymously. In these cases, “it seems” is the less formal way of using the expression. “It seems that,” is more formal and polite.

When used as a conjunction, The Cambridge Dictionary defines the word “that” as “used to introduce a clause that reports something or gives further information, although it can often be left out.”

The critical information in the definition is the part that reads “although it can often be left out.” Based on this definition, we know that in many instances (although not all), you do not need the word “that” when it acts as conjunction.

Therefore, if the guidance described above does not apply to the sentence, it comes down to a matter of style when determining which one to use.

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When Should I Use “It Seems”?

Use “it seems” if you want to describe how something appears to you and the word “seems” will be immediately followed by an adjective that describes the sentence’s noun subject. Also, use it when the word “seems” precedes the preposition “to.”

Here are some examples that show how to use “it seems” in a sentence.

  1. It seems unfair that he had more time to complete the test.
  2. It seems right for me to tell you what she said to me.
  3. It seems to be too early to go to the airport.
  4. It seems good in theory but is a really bad idea.
  5. It seems inevitable that the storm will pass over us.
  6. It seems to me you only are using me for money.
  7. It seems improbable that Steve will cancel his plans tomorrow night.

Notice that many of these sentences have the word “that” included directly after the descriptive adjective (i.e., it seems unfair that). Therefore, many are variations of the phrase “it seems that,” but required additional explanatory language.

When Should I Use “It Seems That”?

Use “it seems that” if the phrase will be immediately followed by the noun subject. In this case, the word “that” is being used as a conjunction and introduces the subordinate clause of the sentence. The subordinate clause expresses a speculative statement about someone or something. 

Here are some examples of how to use “it seems that” in a sentence.

  1. It seems that he is not quite ready to move out on his own.
  2. It seems that you did not know the rules of the game.
  3. It seems that she’s very happy dating him.
  4. It seems that he enjoys spending his free time fishing.
  5. It seems that you know the truth, but don’t want to say it.
  6. It seems that they will cancel school tomorrow because of the weather.
  7. It seems that the time has passed very quickly.

Notice that in all of these sentences if you removed the word “that,” the sentence would still make sense and the same message would come across.

Are “It Seems” And “It Seems That” Interchangeable?

In terms of meaning, “it seems” and “it seems that” are interchangeable. In terms of sentence structure, you cannot always use them interchangeably. For example, if the sentence requires a descriptive adjective or the preposition “to” before the subordinate clause, you can only use the phrase “it seems.”

See how in these examples, you cannot switch out the two phrases and still have the sentence make sense.

  • (Correct) It seems impossible for us to finish in time.
  • (Incorrect) It seems that impossible for us to finish in time.
  • (Correct) It seems to me that he will be late again.
  • (Incorrect) It seems that to me he will be late again.

However, in these two examples, you can easily use either of the phases and the sentence still makes sense.

  • (Correct) It seems that he doesn’t like me anymore.
  • (Correct) It seems he doesn’t like me anymore.
  • (Correct) It seems that time goes by more quickly with every year that passes.
  • (Correct) It seems time goes by more quickly with every year that passes.

Is It Correct To Use “It Seems Like That”?

It is not correct to use the phrase “it seems like that,” because both “like” and “that” are used as conjunctions to connect the subordinate clause. Therefore, it is repetitive to use both words and bad grammar from a syntax standpoint.

You can, however, use the phrase “it seems like” and it will mean fundamentally the same thing as “it seems that.” In both phrases, you provide your hypothesis or opinion about something. Your thoughts may or may not be true, but you don’t have enough information at the time to determine that.

See how in these examples that use “it seems like,” you could easily replace the phrase with “it seems that,” and the sentence would still make sense.

  • It seems like it might rain today, but I’m not sure.
  • It seems like she’s acting differently than she usually does.
  • It seems like we might miss our flight if we don’t hurry.
  • It seems like the wedding will be postponed.
  • It seems like nobody wants to leave the party.

“It Seems” And “It Seems That” – Synonyms

There are various other phrases and words that you can use to express the same thing as “it seems” and “it seems that” including:

  • It appears/ it appears that
  • Seemingly
  • As far as I can tell
  • It looks like
  • In all likelihood/ In all probability 

You may also like:
Seem or Seems – Easy Usage Guide (With Examples)
“Seems To Be” Meaning (And When It Is Used Instead Of “Seems”)