General Writing and Grammar Help/David looked like.....

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Question
Dear Ted:

Which of the following sentence is/are grammatically correct?

1) David looked like he was on the verge of tears when he saw the damage to his motorbike.

2) David looked like to be on the verge of crying when he saw the damage to this motorbike.

3) David looked like on the verge of crying when he saw the damage to this motorbike.

If all three are possible, do they mean the same thing?

If so, which would you use or do you prefer?

As always, many, many thanks for your valuable help.

Paolo

Answer
Dear Paolo:

Which of the following sentence is/are grammatically correct?

1) David looked like he was on the verge of tears when he saw the damage to his
motorbike.

*** YES

2) David looked like to be on the verge of crying when he saw the damage to this
motorbike.

*** NO.  You cannot use an infinitive [to be] after the predicate adjective "like."  If you omit the adjective, you can write "David looked TO BE on the verge . . . ."

3) David looked like on the verge of crying when he saw the damage to this
motorbike.

*** This one is always incorrect.  Once you add the predicate adjective "like," you place a limitation on what can follow.  In this case, the prepositional phrase "on the verge" just cannot be used.  You can make the correction I suggested in #2, or you can make some other change.  A good option is to add a dependent clause, as you did in #1.  Here's another sentence with a different dependent clause:  David looked AS IF HE WERE on the verge of tears . . .   In this case, "as if he were" in an adverbial clause describing how David looked.  David + looked + HOW.

*** From the three sentences you have written, only #1 is acceptable.

Ted

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Ted Nesbitt

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I am the bibliographic instruction and reference librarian at a public college. Some members of the English department recommend me to their students. I offer assistance in grammar, punctuation, sentence structure, and paragraph development. My master`s thesis concerns William Faulkner`s tragic novels. I formerly taught advanced placement English at two schools in the Philadelphia area.

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I have been one of the highest-ranked volunteers in this category for more than a decade.

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B. A. and M. A in English; MSIS in Library & Information Sciences; graduate study in philosophy

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