from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

  • conjunction In the same way that it would be if.
  • conjunction That.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.

  • conjunction As though; in a manner suggesting.
  • conjunction In mimicry of.
  • interjection idiomatic Refers to something that the speaker deems highly unlikely.


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  • �?As if Saul Bellow and Italo Calvino were to have written the ‘Canterbury Tales’ while Robert Heinlein looked over their shoulders.�?

    April 1, 2008

  • "I come out here every night and start talking as if I know things." -- Stephen Colbert

    Can someone tell me when/why it is/isn't know respectively knew in this kind of construction? I'm just watching a few procrastinated Colbert Report episodes and this sentence puzzles me... Thanks.

    January 18, 2009

  • An exclamation intended to convey something like if only that were the case.

    January 18, 2009

  • Telofy, in colloquial American speech the subjunctive mood is slowly dying out in such constructions. In the sentence, "Every night I start talking as if I knew things", knew is the subjunctive form of the verb. It may look like the past tense, but there is nothing past about it here; it's clearly referring to the ongoing, recurring present. One could even use it in the future: "In three years, Colbert will still be talking as if he knew things." For the verb "to be", the subjunctive form is "were", for all persons: "Every night I start talking as if I were knowledgeable"; "Every night Colbert starts talking as if he were knowledgeable." For earlier generations, these were the only permissible forms in such constructions. But in America, at least since the 1960s (and some more knowledgeable Wordie linguist like qroqqa or sarra could probably give you more exact information), the subjunctive has been deteriorating in colloquial speech (and more and more in formal writing too), so that today you are probaly more likely to hear and read "as if I know things; as if I am knowledgeable". But the meaning is the same.

    January 18, 2009

  • Thanks a lot. I must definitely peruse that wikipedia article about the subjunctive mood again. :-)

    Not only this section.

    January 19, 2009

  • An exclamation of disbelief. Short for "as if that were true", i.e. "you speak as if you were in earnest", the implication being that what the subject is saying cannot possibly be correct.

    Grammatically though, how does as if compare to as though? What is the comparative lineage of these two constructions, I wonder?

    February 19, 2010