The particular example I am thinking of here is: "This sounds like a noble pursuit." I was wondering if it would be grammatically correct to drop the like: hence, "this sounds a noble pursuit."

It sounds correct in my head and out loud (much to the confusion of my co-workers) but I don't think there's any grammatical precedent. Is it actually correct? If not, are there times when I can drop the 'like'? What would those times be?

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    The important thing is that this construction only occurs in complements of sense verbs (look, sound, feel, smell, taste, seem, for instance). Commented Feb 11, 2020 at 23:03
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    "This sounds a noble pursuit" sounds fine to me, though I might say "this seems a noble pursuit". (I speak Australian English, if it matters.)
    – nnnnnn
    Commented Feb 12, 2020 at 0:52
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    "I could say I did what I had to when I left you to go pirating, but it would taste a lie to say it wasn't what I wanted." - Bootstrap Bill Turner, Pirates of the Caribbean Commented May 25, 2020 at 17:10
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    Not sure Pirates of the Caribbean can be taken as an example of modern English usage.
    – Stuart F
    Commented Apr 20, 2023 at 8:39
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    How can one be sure this isn't 'to be deletion'? "This sounds to be a noble pursuit." cf "He appears Ø sane.' Commented Apr 20, 2023 at 11:10

2 Answers 2


You can correctly say either "this sounds like a noble pursuit", or "this sounds a noble pursuit", but it's not a case of dropping a word (or, in grammatical terms, "ellipsis"): rather those are two different ways to say the same thing.

"This sounds a noble pursuit" is a copular construction (like "this idea seems bad", or "I am a police officer") -- where the two things on the opposite sides of the verb are identical.

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    Hello, equin0x80. They are certainly 'different ways to say the same thing', but why should that rule out (perhaps first occurring so far back in history that the when isn't clear) ellipsis? One could argue that the original could be 'this sounds to be a noble pursuit' rather than 'this sounds like/as if it is a noble pursuit'. // If the claim that deletion is maintained, it is necessary to give a respected reference in support. Commented Apr 20, 2023 at 11:34
  • "This looks like gold" and "This looks to be gold" certainly don't mean the same thing, Are you sure what "This looks gold" means? Is it really gold?
    – Stuart F
    Commented Sep 17, 2023 at 14:22

While you might see "like" dropped in literary works (to sound more poetic?), you would never drop the "like" in regular, every-day spoken or written American English.

  • At least not with a noun; "this sounds silly" is obviously fine, but "this sounds like a silly idea".
    – Stuart F
    Commented Dec 21, 2022 at 11:57
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    @swmcdonnell I would like to see a source to support this claim as it relates to this question.
    – equin0x80
    Commented Apr 20, 2023 at 6:22
  • '$50 seems a lot to pay' sounds like it merits the 'every-day spoken American English' tag to me. Commented Apr 20, 2023 at 11:24
  • I would say, "$50 seems like a lot to pay." Commented Apr 24, 2023 at 3:36
  • These Google ngrams indicate that "seems happy enough" is vastly more common than "seems to be happy enough"; I believe they're mainly from written US sources. Commented May 14 at 10:16

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