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What's the difference between "look like" and "look as if" ?

"It looks as if it is going to rain."

Can I say "It looks like that it is going to rain." ?

And on my text book, there're other examples.

"He looks as if he understood." Why the word "understood" is past tense and the other one above is not ??

Does it mean the same if I said "He seems to understand." or "It seems (that) he understand."?

One more... "It seems as though he understood."

Would it mean the same if I get rid of "as though"?

Are they just more formal??

Thanks...
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What's the difference between "look like" and "look as if" ?

"It looks as if it is going to rain." yes this is correct. You see that there are gray clouds in the sky and you say this. You can say It look like it is going to rain or it looks like as though it is going to rain too. There is no subjınctive mood here.

Can I say "It looks like that it is going to rain." ?

And on my text book, there're other examples.

"He looks as if he understood." Why the word "understood" is past tense and the other one above is not ?? Because we can't open his braina nd see whether he understood or not. In some contexts, as if and asthough requires subjunctive. Here it means he seems that he understood me or it seems that he understood me or he seems to have understood me. Probably he understood.

Does it mean the same if I said "He seems to understand." or "It seems (that) he understand."?

One more... "It seems as though he understood." as if and as though are frineds. They give the same meaning to the context.

Would it mean the same if I get rid of "as though"? If you omit as though , your sentence will be ungrammatical.

Are they just more formal?? I think they are ok as they are used. You should show me other alternatives to decide whether it is more formal or not.
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What's the difference between "look like" and "look as if" ? In the sentences you used, they mean the same thing.

"It looks as if it is going to rain."

Can I say "It looks like that it is going to rain." ? Yes, but omit the "that" "It looks like it's going to rain." ("it is" instead of "it's" is also correct)

And on my text book, there're other examples.

"He looks as if he understood." Why the word "understood" is past tense and the other one above is not ??

The current look on his face indicates that he understood. The look is present, because it is happening now, his understanding already happened, so it's past.

Does it mean the same if I said "He seems to understand." or "It seems (that) he understand."?

They mean pretty much the same thing.

One more... "It seems as though he understood." Yes.

Would it mean the same if I get rid of "as though"? Yes.

Are they just more formal?? There is a subtle difference, I believe "as though" means the speaker is less certain about his statement.