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I'm struggling with まるで~ようだ a lot. A lot of resources say that it means 'as if.'

Do I really need まるで to convey the "as if" nuance? I thought that ようだ already means 'like/as if.'

彼はまるで答えを知っているようだ。
It's as if he knows/knew the answer.

彼は答えを知っているようだ。
he seems to know the answer.

Is there any difference between the two sentences?

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    Do you mean you see no difference in those two English translations or you doubt their accuracy?
    – aguijonazo
    May 26 at 1:26
  • Yes! somehow, whenever I ask about まるで my language exchange partners start using "as if/as though" To me, both of the English sentences sound just about the same. I really think that まるで just makes my sentence sound stronger and while in English there are way more options to convey 'guesses/similarities/impressions', Japanese relies on よう・そう・みたい only. I also met with something like ~かのように = you don't know something and no か = you know something. I'm really confused. All my answers and theories come from Japanese people. May 26 at 9:32
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ようだ basically just means "looks/sounds/seems". まるで is a guiding adverb that indicates the following part is not a real description but a figurative/metaphorical expression.

The use of まるで may or may not change the meaning of the sentence. For example, 夢のようだ and まるで夢のようだ are usually not very different because 夢のようだ is almost always a figurative expression said when something wonderful happened in reality. Here, まるで does nothing but adding a small emphasis.

On the other hand, the two sentences you gave are very different in meaning.

  1. 彼はまるで答えを知っているようだ。
    It's as if he knew the answer.
  2. 彼は答えを知っているようだ。
    He seems to know the answer.

Sentence 1 means he doesn't actually know the answer, while Sentence 2 means he probably knows the answer. Here まるで indicates 答えを知っている is not a true description. In English, this is done by "as if" or "as though".

Sometimes, a sentence using ようだ may look ambiguous (to English speakers). For example, 彼は死んでいるようだ may mean "He looks as if he were dead" or "He seems to be dead" depending on the situation. With まるで, the sentence will only mean the former. But when he is clearly alive and everyone knows 死んでいる is merely a figure of speech, まるで is not necessary nor important.

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