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Deem vs. Seem: What's the Difference?

By Janet White & Harlon Moss || Updated on March 4, 2024
Deem is to judge or consider in a specific way, while seem refers to the appearance or impression something gives.

Key Differences

Deem involves a judgment or assessment based on one's opinion or beliefs. It implies a level of decision-making or conclusion about the state, quality, or nature of something or someone. For instance, a person may deem an action necessary after careful consideration. On the other hand, seem focuses on how things appear or are perceived, often without implying a definitive judgment or conclusion. Something might seem dangerous based on its appearance, without any deeper analysis or confirmation of its true nature.
When someone deems something, it reflects a conscious evaluation or consideration, suggesting a more deliberate and thoughtful process. This contrasts with seem, which is more about initial impressions or appearances that may or may not reflect reality accurately. For example, a project might seem easy at first glance, whereas a thorough review may lead one to deem it challenging.
The use of deem often carries an implication of authority or expertise, as it is associated with the act of making an informed judgment. In contrast, seem is more universally accessible, relating to general perceptions that do not necessarily require specialized knowledge or authority to assess. An expert might deem a solution viable based on their knowledge, while to a layperson, the solution might simply seem appropriate.
Deem and seem also differ in their grammatical constructions and the contexts in which they are typically used. Deem is often followed by an object and a complement, indicating what is being judged and how (e.g., deemed necessary). Seem, however, is commonly used with linking verbs and adjectives to describe appearances (e.g., seems happy) or with "to" followed by a verb (e.g., seems to be working).
Despite their differences, both terms play crucial roles in language, offering nuanced ways to express judgments, perceptions, and appearances. While deem is used for expressing considered opinions or judgments, seem is key for conveying perceptions or appearances, highlighting the distinction between thoughtful evaluation and surface-level observation.

Comparison Chart


To judge or consider
To appear or give an impression


Conveys a judgment or decision
Suggests appearance or perception

Usage Context

More formal or authoritative
General perceptions

Example Construction

Deemed + [object] + [complement]
Seems + [adjective/linking verb]

Typical Use

In making informed judgments
In describing appearances or impressions

Deem and Seem Definitions


To regard or view as.
She deemed it necessary to finish her work by the deadline.


Give the impression of being.
He seems happy despite the circumstances.


Make a formal judgment.
The act was deemed unconstitutional by the court.


To be perceived as.
The solution seems to be effective.


Consider or judge in a certain way.
The council deemed the old building unsafe for use.


Indicate a certain quality by appearance.
The sky seems clearer today.


To think or conclude.
He deemed the rumors unworthy of attention.


Suggest or imply.
It seems like it's going to rain.


To regard as; consider
Deemed the results unsatisfactory. See Usage Note at as1.


To give the impression of being in a certain way; appear to be
The child seems healthy, but the doctor is concerned. The house seems to be in good condition.


To suppose or believe
"making little improvements which she deemed that he would value when she was gone" (Thomas Hardy).


Used to call attention to one's impression or understanding about something, especially in weakening the force of a following infinitive
I can't seem to get the story straight.


To have an opinion; think.


To appear to be probable or evident
It seems you object to the plan. It seems like rain.


To judge, to pass judgment on; to doom, to sentence.


(copulative) To appear; to look outwardly; to be perceived as.
He seems to be ill.
Her eyes seem blue.
It must have seemed to her she was safe.
How did she seem to you?
He seems not to be at home.
It seems like rain.


To adjudge, to decree.


(obsolete) To befit; to beseem.


To dispense (justice); to administer (law).


To appear, or to appear to be; to have a show or semblance; to present an appearance; to look; to strike one's apprehension or fancy as being; to be taken as.
Thou picture of what thou seem'st.
All seemed well pleased; all seemed, but were not all.
There is a way which seemeth right unto a man; but the end thereof are the ways of death.
A prince of Italy, it seems, entertained his mistress on a great lake.
Ham. Ay, madam, it is common.Queen. If it be,Why seems it so particular with thee?Ham. Seems, madam! Nay, it is; I know not "seems."


(ditransitive) To hold in belief or estimation; to adjudge as a conclusion; to regard as being; to evaluate according to one's beliefs; to account.
She deemed his efforts insufficient.


To befit; to beseem.


(ambitransitive) To think, judge, or have or hold as an opinion; to decide or believe on consideration; to suppose.


Give a certain impression or have a certain outward aspect;
She seems to be sleeping
This appears to be a very difficult problem
This project looks fishy
They appeared like people who had not eaten or slept for a long time


An opinion, a judgment, a surmise.


Seem to be true, probable, or apparent;
It seems that he is very gifted
It appears that the weather in California is very bad


To decide; to judge; to sentence; to condemn.
Claudius . . . Was demed for to hang upon a tree.


Appear to exist;
There seems no reason to go ahead with the project now


To account; to esteem; to think; to judge; to hold in opinion; to regard.
For never can I deem him less him less than god.


Appear to one's own mind or opinion;
I seem to be misunderstood by everyone
I can't seem to learn these Chinese characters


To be of opinion; to think; to estimate; to opine; to suppose.
And deemest thou as those who pore,With aged eyes, short way before?


To appear in a certain way.
The task seems easy at first glance.


To pass judgment.


Opinion; judgment.


Keep in mind or convey as a conviction or view;
Take for granted
View as important
Hold these truths to be self-evident
I hold him personally responsible


To hold as an opinion.
They deemed the proposal inadequate.


Is deem a formal expression?

Deem is often considered more formal than seem and is used in contexts requiring judgment or decision-making.

Can something seem and be deemed differently?

Yes, something can seem one way based on initial impressions but be deemed differently upon closer examination or consideration.

Can deem be used in everyday language?

While deem can be used in everyday language, it is more commonly found in formal or written contexts.

Does seem always imply uncertainty?

Seem does often imply a level of uncertainty or superficial perception, as it is based on appearances rather than deep analysis.

Is it correct to use deem without evidence?

Typically, deem is used when there is some basis for the judgment, though it may not always require empirical evidence.

What grammatical structures commonly follow "deem"?

"Deem" is commonly followed by an object and an adjective (e.g., deemed necessary), or an object and a clause introduced by "to be" (e.g., deemed to be necessary).

Is "deem" only used in legal or formal contexts?

While "deem" is frequently used in legal and formal contexts due to its authoritative connotation, it can also be used in any context where an opinion or judgment is expressed.

How does context affect the use of "seem"?

The context can influence the use of "seem" to reflect uncertainty, speculation, or a preliminary assessment based on initial impressions, often softening statements to avoid making definitive claims.

What does it mean to deem something?

To deem something means to judge or consider it in a specific way based on one's opinion or evaluation.

How do seem and appear differ?

Seem and appear are similar in meaning, both referring to how something is perceived, but seem can imply a more subjective impression.

How does one use seem correctly in a sentence?

One uses seem by linking it with an adjective, verb, or expression that describes the appearance or impression given, e.g., "She seems tired."

Can "seem" and "appear" be used interchangeably in all contexts?

While "seem" and "appear" are often interchangeable, the choice between them can depend on the nuance of perception or evidence. "Appear" may be used when there is some physical evidence, whereas "seem" often refers to a more general or subjective impression.

Does "deem" always involve subjective judgment?

While "deem" involves an element of subjective judgment, it is often based on criteria, standards, or evidence, making the judgment informed or reasoned rather than purely personal or arbitrary.

Can "deem" imply a change of status?

Yes, "deem" can imply a change of status or categorization based on judgment or evaluation, often formalizing the perceived nature or value of something or someone.

Can seem be subjective?

Yes, seem is inherently subjective, as it relates to personal impressions or appearances that may not reflect objective reality.

Why might someone choose to use "seem" over a more definite verb?

Using "seem" allows for expressing an observation or feeling without committing to a definitive statement, which can be useful in situations requiring tact, uncertainty, or openness to other interpretations.

What is the difference between seem and appear?

Seem and appear are often used interchangeably, but seem might convey a more personal or subjective impression, while appear might be used for more objective observations.

How does the use of "seem" affect the tone of a statement?

The use of "seem" can make a statement appear less assertive and more speculative or observational, often softening the tone and suggesting openness to other possibilities.

Is it possible for something to seem one way to one person and be deemed differently by another?

Absolutely, since "seem" relates to personal impressions and "deem" involves judgment, it's common for individuals to have differing perceptions and conclusions based on their own perspectives, knowledge, and biases.

Can the use of "deem" in a sentence affect its perceived authority?

Yes, using "deem" in a sentence can lend it a sense of authority or finality, as it implies a judgment or decision has been made by someone with the presumed authority or expertise to do so.
About Author
Written by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.
Co-written by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.

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