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I have following sentences :

She looks as if she is ill. //she really looks ill
She looks as if she was ill //she definitely is not, I am being ironic or whatever

And when I shift these into the past, I get:

She looked as if she was ill.

From my understanding, unreal time remains the same but real time changes from present to past simple..so both will look like this.Is that correct?

And one more question, what is the difference in:

She looked as if she has been ill.

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If you want as if to be something unreal, use were. – tchrist Jun 15 '12 at 12:29
She looked as if she were ill. – Sebastián Grignoli Jun 15 '12 at 15:41
@SebastiánGrignoli: I don't believe that's correct in English... because people certainly can become ill. I think the subjunctive is different in English than in other languages like French. – Mehrdad Jun 16 '12 at 7:29

First of all, if someone really looks ill, you should just say it: "She looks ill."

If you're definite that she's not, you should say: "She looks as if she was (were) ill." You could also use "like" instead of "as if."

Change them to Past Tense and you've got:

  1. She looked ill.

  2. She looked as if she was (were) ill.

Finally, "She looked as if she had been ill" means "It seemed to me that she had been ill FOR QUITE SOME TIME." Not just at that particular moment I saw her. (Or that she had just recovered from an illness.)

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Re your last paragraph, I think the verb disagreement in "She looked as if she has been ill" is terminal and the sentence has no clear meaning unless looked is changed to looks or has is changed to had. (Change one or the other.) – jwpat7 Jun 15 '12 at 14:43
You're right, jwpat7! I missed that one. Thanks! :-) – Cool Elf Jun 15 '12 at 15:31
Isn't the rule for subjunctive different in English than in e.g. French? I don't think were is the right term here, though please correct me if I'm wrong... – Mehrdad Jun 16 '12 at 7:29
Hello Mehrdad! You can use "were" after "like" ("as if") in the same way you use it after "if" and "wish." It means the idea isn't real – Cool Elf Jun 16 '12 at 7:39
To me, "as if" gives a much larger sense of unreality than "like". If you say "She looked like she was ill", I am not sure whether or not she is ill, and maybe you aren't either. If you say "She looked as if she was ill", my impression is that she is unlikely to be ill. – Peter Shor Jun 16 '12 at 12:05

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