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In a Japanese English grammar textbook, "seems" is translated as ~のように見える, for example:

He seemed to have been ill.

I've also seen "seems" written as ~(の)ように思える in various example sentences on Space ALC:

It doesn't seem to have an effect.

What's the difference in meaning and usage between ~(の)ようだ, ~(の)ように見える, ~(の)ように思える and ~みたい?

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Notice that 見える here is not literally "see" but is a metaphor. – user458 Jun 11 '12 at 0:17
@sawa Perhaps, but when I page through instances of ように見える in both Eijiro and the Tanaka Corpus, nearly all examples pertain to something perceived visually. While I certainly would not be surprised if metaphoric instances existed, is it possible that ように見える is more likely to be associated with visual observations? – con5013d Jun 11 '12 at 3:15
Maybe. If so, then you aleady have partial answer to your question. – user458 Jun 11 '12 at 3:32
up vote 2 down vote accepted

As for the difference between みたい and よう, it is too subtle for me to tell.

Between the various endings after みたい, they indicate how indirect the observation is (i.e., how much inference is involved).

  • だ is declaration, so ようだ is the most certain among the endings using よう.
  • ように見える adds the hedge 見える, meaning that it is directly observed, but is less certain than ようだ.
  • ように思える adds the hedge 思える, meaning that a thought process is involved, so it is less certain than ように見える.
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