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These seem to mean exactly the same thing. They surely sound different though, so maybe I'm missing some subtlety. Do the sentences have a different meaning?

It seems like a random occurrence.


It seems a random occurrence.

I'm also curious about this one:

It seems to be a random occurrence.

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I've used them all synonymously at one point or another. I would say that sentence two is the same as sentence one or three except with an understood "like" or "to be." – advs89 Feb 6 '11 at 18:53
up vote 8 down vote accepted

All the sentences you wrote can be used, and would mean to give the impression or sensation of being something or having a particular quality.

Dawn seemed annoyed.
There seems to be plenty to eat.
It seemed that he was determined to oppose her.

Looking on the Corpus of Contemporary English for some phrases containing it seems, I get the following result:

Phrase         |  Frequency per million
               |   Spoken | Magazine | Newspaper | Academic
It seems a     |    1.11  |  0.93    |  1.09     |  0.66
It seems like  |   17.33  |  3.94    |  6.68     |  0.76
It seems that  |    9.40  |  6.30    |  5.35     | 12.01
It seems to be |    6.90  |  1.90    |  2.32     |  1.87

Usage of "it seems"

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