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Do these sentences convey the same meaning? If not, what's the difference?

Pisces feel like fish in an infinite ocean of thought and feeling.
Pisces are like fish in an infinite ocean of thought and feeling.

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"Feel like" has multiple meanings in English. The first sentence could be interpreted as "when I touch Pisces, they feel [to me] as if they are fish in...". "Feel like" can also mean "feel as if I want", as in the old joke: "I feel like a cup of tea" / "Funny, you don't look like one". – DJClayworth Aug 17 '11 at 16:58
up vote 2 down vote accepted

The first sentence, "Pisces feel like ..." is stating a fact about how a Pisces feels. The second sentence is making a simile about how Pisces are, and you have to infer that if a Pisces IS that way then they would feel it. The first sentence speaks more to the emotions felt by the person whereas the second leaves it open to interpretation as to what an infinite ocean of thoughts and emotions would mean.

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These are similar, but are not the same. The first sentence is more emotive and is more of an internal state. The second sentence could, but doesn't necessarily imply that this is an externally visible trait.

Normally, 'to feel' and 'to be' are more strongly separated as internal vs. external. However, in this case, the things that Pisces are being or are feeling are already internal things, so the distinction is much finer.

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There is actually an ambiguity in the "feel like" example if the thing being described is capable of feeling. Assuming that "pisces" here means "People whose astrological sign is Pisces", they are capable of feeling, so it could mean that they experience the sensation of being like fish, or that I (the speaker) have the feeling that they are like fish. – Colin Fine Aug 17 '11 at 13:48

No. You can feel like what you are not, and you can be more or less than what you feel you are.

So, are they actually like fish in an infinite ocean of thought and feeling, or do they merely feel like they are?

To get the point across a bit better there is a good deal of difference between the two following phrases:

They feel dead. 
They are dead.

The first implies that they, whoever they are, merely feel very bad or tired or run down. The second implies that they are dead; really no other way to take that one.

Now, with the use of simile in your examples, it's a little more complicated than with a definite state of being. Generally, I would say that if you are going to use "are" with a simile, it should be something that they actually are like. For instance, from the top of a large building you might say "The people are like ants."

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feel like to be inclined, willing or anxious to (do or have something) I don't feel like going out; I expect he feels like a cup of tea. be like Informal To say or utter. Used chiefly in oral narration: And he's like, "Leave me alone!"

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Irrelevant. Read the question. It is not about that meaning of "feel like". – Colin Fine Aug 17 '11 at 13:42

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