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I found some sources that said that I could use both constructions to mean "It seems like verb..."

Therefore, are the following sentences equal in meaning?

泳いでいるように見えました。
泳いでいて見えました。

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  • kanshudo.com/grammar/… I also found the same information on the Bunpro website.
    – Manab
    Jan 22 at 14:15
  • What are these sentences supposed to mean? It seems like someone is swimming? Could you provide a bit more context?
    – Riolku
    Jan 22 at 18:04
  • They are supposed to mean something like "It seems like they are swimming (By looking at them). I already understand that expressing it with ように見える is ok, but I want to know if expressing the same idea with the てform is also possible and correct. The example sentence on Kanshudo is 彼はいつもと違って見える, but it doesn't explain any further and because of that I don't know if 泳いでいて見える is correct.
    – Manab
    Jan 22 at 19:38
  • Hi, just a quick tip: I notice you haven't accepted a single answer since you came to Japanese SE. Of course if you'd like to leave your questions open, it's totally fine, but questioners are encouraged to accept answers too. Some of your questions have received pretty good answers. Case in point: the multi-upvoted answer under this question is pretty good and unlikely to be surpassed by future answers.
    – Eddie Kal
    Mar 15 at 0:23

2 Answers 2

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泳いでいるように見えた is the only correct choice in your context. 泳いでいて見えた is grammatical but it would mean something like "I could see it (e.g., a shark) while I was swimming".

-て見える takes an instant-state change verb whose teiru-form ta-form has an adjective-like meaning. 違う is a typical example of this. However, it does not need -ている to express the continuation of state. You can directly use the te-form:

  • 違った = 違っている "different"
    違って見える "appears to be different"
  • 老けた = 老けている "aged"
    老けて見える "appears to be aged"
  • ぼやけた = ぼやけている "blurry"
    ぼやけて見える "appears to be blurry"
  • 混乱した = 混乱している "confused"
    混乱して見える "appears to be confused"
  • 曲がった = 曲がっている "bent"
    曲がって見える "appears to be bent"

You cannot use this construction for ordinary action verbs whose teiru-form expresses the progressive action ("is ~-ing"). 泳いで見える, 歩いて見える and so on are ungrammatical.

And not all instant-state-change verbs can be used with -て見える:

  • 死んでいる "is dead"
    死んで見える "appears to be dead" (uncommon, 死んでいるように見える is much more common)
  • 知っている "knows"
    知って見える (wrong)
  • 覚えている "remembers"
    覚えて見える (wrong)
  • 結婚している "is married"
    結婚して見える (wrong)

I don't know the exact criteria, but I think it's probably best to use -て見える only for clearly apparent qualities of something.

As far as I can see, -ているように見える has no such restriction. You can safely say 泳いでいるように見える ("appears to be swimming"), 知っているように見える ("it appears that they know it") and so on.

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  • 1
    少なくとも現在の一般的な用法では、「違う」は状態変化ではなく、定常的な属性を表すと思いますが。「ている形」ではなく、名詞の前の「た形」が形容詞のように機能することが大事なのかも。
    – aguijonazo
    Jan 23 at 2:16
  • @aguijonazo あ、「違う」については全くその通りです…。すみません。今は時間ないのでまた改めて考えてみます。
    – naruto
    Jan 23 at 2:20
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Therefore, are the following sentences equal in meaning?

Yes, it works equally under certain context, in practice.

One of the many use cases would be, when looking at an optical illusion. Suppose there's a picture, and if you look at it from one angle, you see a man swimming, but when you look closely, it's not. Don't ask me what it looks like up close. Looking at this picture, a boy might say "it looked like it was swimming!" in the following way:

  1. 泳いでいるように見えました

  2. 泳いでるように見えました

  3. 泳いでいて見えました (this is your example)

  4. 泳いでて見えました

  5. 泳いで見えました

We can shorten "見えました" to "見えた" too.

It may be worth noting your example "3. 泳いでいて見えました" may cause a debate by those who haven't been exposed to this version. The more I look at the sentence, the "wrong"er it seems, but when I mutter them it makes sense. It may be wrong after all, but somehow it makes sense to me, and I'm guilty of using it.

I hope another answer or comment would explain the logic behind this.

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