1. There seems to be a problem.

  2. There seems a problem.

In this type of construction, the version with to be, such as (1), is much more productive than the one without, such as (2). See this Ngram: There seems to be a,There seems a

  1. There seems to be little doubt that....

  2. There seems little doubt that....

In this similar construction with "little", however, the version with to be, such as (3), is even less productive than the one without, such as (4). See this Ngram: There seems little,There seems to be little

Would there be any logical explanation of this apparently counter-intuitive usage data?

  • Round about 2 million hits in both Google searches for "there seems to be little" and "there seems little" show currency. But productivity here surely refers to the number of different X's that will fill the slots "there seems [to be] little X ....", not directly addressed by the second two ngrams. // But I'd agree that to-be-deletion is rarely (ie not for many sensible NPs etc) available in strings of the form << There seems to be DetP/NP ... >>. Especially with NPs. << There seems reasonable ground to assume ...>> (even here, one could argue that 'reasonable' has quantifier force). May 17 at 11:28
  • There seems to be a problem is a fixed phrase and does not grammatically undergo To be-Deletion. See "To be and not to be" for details on the rule. May 17 at 13:36
  • @Greybeard Are you sure that the cited book discusses the issue raised in the OP? The linked portion doesn't seem to be particularly relevant. If I'm mistaken and you've read the book, please write up an answer even if it acknowledges that there's no logical explanation of the phenomenon.
    – JK2
    May 18 at 2:39
  • 1
    Are you sure "There seems a problem" is grammatical? I don't find it so ... May 23 at 1:08
  • 1
    @JohnLawler With all due respect, I don't think you don't understand what I'm asking. No one except you has said they don't. If you can't provide an answer, you don't have to. Please don't say that you can't just because you don't understand the question.
    – JK2
    May 28 at 2:30


Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.