On the word ‘like’

The word “like” is one of the most common English words. It has many usages, some standard, some colloquial, and some completely idiomatic. Following is an analysis, with recommendations for good usage.

If you write and publish, your understanding and use of the word “like” is important. How you use it in everyday speech is one thing; how you use it in formal writing is another.

“Like” used as an adjective

Meaning: “having the same characteristics or qualities (as another)”. Example:

They couldn’t remember a like occurrence.

“Like” used as a verb

Meaning: take pleasure in; find agreeable or congenial; regard with favor

Example: I like cookies. It’s good to have someone Like you on Facebook.

“Like” used as a preposition

Meaning: “similarly to; in the manner or characteristic of”. Example:

They work like beavers.

“Like” used as an adverb

Meaning: “nearly; closely; approximately”. Example:

He’s more like 40 years old than 30.

Nonstandard usage 1 (not recommended for formal writing): as it were; in a way; somehow (e.g., I did it like wrong.)

Nonstandard usage 2 (not recommended for formal writing): to a degree; more or less (e.g., They stood tall, looking very tough like.)

“Like” used as a conjunction

Meaning: in the same way as; just as; as; as if

Example: It worked out just like you said it would.

Note: Even though like as a conjunction has been used for hundreds of years by educated people, it’s usually reserved, today, for informal speech and writing. In careful speech and formal writing, though, as, as if, and as though are preferred. (e.g., It worked out just as you said it would.)

Informal usage(not recommended for formal writing): used after forms of be to introduce reported speech or thought (e.g., She’s like, “I don’t believe it”, and I’m like, “No, it’s true!”.)


Meaning: a similar person or thing (to another)

Example: It’s been said that likes attract likes.

interjection (informal)

Meaning: used in speech, often habitually, to preface a sentence, to fill a pause, to express uncertainty, or to intensify or neutralize a following adjective

Example: The movie was, like, really great, you know?


Usage 1: like anything

Meaning: very much; extremely; with great intensity

Example: They wanted like anything to have the project succeed.

Usage 2: like to

Meaning: was on the verge of or came close to (doing something)

Example: The poor kid like to froze.


Bottom line, “like” is okay to use, but use it with care.

Copyright 2017 by Affordable Editing Services

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