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I searched for similar questions within a website, but ended up with one without a solution. Which expression is correct or better? Both sound weird to me.

  • The solution seems missing.
  • The solution seems to be missing.
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    I have no idea what your question is. Please write the two versions out in full. Also discuss your specific confusion, and if you have done prior research, please report what your learned, or didn’t learn, there.
    – tchrist
    Commented Nov 30, 2012 at 4:19
  • @Metta: Using "seems" is a device for lessening the impact of what you're saying (which is presumably "The solution is missing" or "There is no solution"). Idiomatically we normally stretch it out a bit further with seems to be. So if you didn't do that, it would stand out and reduce the softening effect. But I have to say neither of your versions sounds very "natural" to me - I'd probably say something more like "I can't see any solution to the problem here". Commented Nov 30, 2012 at 4:41
  • @tchrist, thank you for your suggestions. "Sound weird" might be OK to myself, but too subjective to other viewers. The problem is I haven't seen other people use them in either way. Maybe it's my inexperiencedness of English usage should be blamed for . Commented Nov 30, 2012 at 4:42
  • Thanks for the edit. I honestly did not understand what you were asking before, and now I do.
    – tchrist
    Commented Nov 30, 2012 at 4:43
  • @FumbleFingers: I think you're right. I overuse "seem" from time to time. Commented Nov 30, 2012 at 4:49

4 Answers 4

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Grammatically, they are both correct and semantically, either will work, to be being elided in the second case. But yes, something is indeed missing or amiss here.

You didn't say why "Both sound weird to me." I would say the choice of words is inappropriate, which must be why.

seem syn. appear - look - sound
missing syn. lost - absent - wanting - lacking - gone
Naturally, directly juxtaposing seem with missing makes for a weird situation. It is correct, but it tends interfere with comprehension.

Using direct speech is one way out:

It seems the solution is missing.

Parenthesizing the contra word could also help:

The solution, apparently, is missing.

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  • Nice to be of help, @MettaWorldPeace.
    – Kris
    Commented Nov 30, 2012 at 5:14
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    I ask about 'contra word' herein.
    – user50720
    Commented Jan 15, 2015 at 4:20
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They both work.

I personally prefer the sound of:

The solution seems to be missing.

If you are just worried about how the sentence sounds though, consider rearranging the words to give you things like:

It seems as though the solution is missing.

Depending on your preference, you might find you dispense with "seems" entirely and go with something like:

The solution appears to be missing.

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  • Thank you for your answer. I think the problem lies in I overuse "seem". There is perhaps no middleground between something is missing and something appears to be missing, but actually not. Commented Nov 30, 2012 at 4:54
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Either way is fine. They read a little weird being without apprpriate surrounding contexts that smooth them out, assumed to be reasoning prior to the conclusion that it looks like the actual solution is missing. By the way things can look like they're missing, either as a visual phenomena in surrounding context or metaphorically. In the latter case "seems" would be read as "apparently". 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10. In this list 5 seems missing or seems to be missing. Either way, using "seems" is more succinct than most constructs to express that idea.

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In my opinion, "missing" definitely seems more verb-like than adjective-like in this usage. Therefore "be missing" is the present continuous form of "miss" (used somewhat idiomatically). It requires the helping verb "be". You cannot replace "be" with "seem" in this context because that is not a valid construction of the present continuous form. Accordingly, "seems to be missing" is the only correct verb phrase in this example.

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