LIKE OR AS: WHICH TO USE AND WHEN

Like or as

Do you often get confused about using ‘like’ or ‘as’ in a sentence? Are they the same? Can they be used interchangeably? What are their rules and functions?

These words are frequently used in the English language. They specify essential meanings and play different roles. Effectively using ‘like’ or ‘as’ in your speech efficiently requires a knowledge of which must be used and when. It is also important that you know how to choose correctly between the two.

‘Like’ and ‘as’ are generally used to denote some sort of similarity or comparison. As these words have identical roles, you may often be confused about which to use and when. But we are to help you out!

We have a detailed list of guidelines to assist you in the correct grammatical use of ‘like’ and ‘as’ in the English language.

So let us delve into today’s discussion. Oh well, are you keeping a count on how many times we use ‘like’ or ‘as’ in this lesson? How many times have they been used so far?

We will go through:

  • Difference between ‘like’ and ‘as’.
  • Uses of ‘like’.
  • Uses of ‘as’.
  • Safe tip on how to use them effectively.

Differences between ‘like’ and ‘as’ 

The major difference between the two is –

‘Like’ is used to show similarity

Whereas,

‘As’ is used to represent what something or someone really is.  

Have a look at these examples:

  1. He’s like a teacher to me, always guides with work.
  • As a teacher, she is very inspiring.

In the first sentence, ‘He’ refers to someone that has similar qualities of a teacher, but is not a teacher.

But in the second sentence, ‘she’ actually is a teacher.

Hence, ‘like’ talks about similarity but ‘as’ specifies exactness.

Look at some more examples of each.

For like:

  • I often hear that I look like my mother.
  • Many people wrongly believe that rabbits look like hares
  • You should never allow anyone to treat you like an inferior person.

Do you see that ‘like’ is always being followed by a noun or pronoun? – mother, hares, an inferior person.

For As:

  • Would you mind arranging the chairs as they were before?
  • She built the tent as the instructions stated.
  • Nobody understands as a mother does.

Notice here that ‘as’ is used before a clause (subject + verb) – they were, the instructions stated, and mother does.

Let us tell you another notably different use of ‘As’ and ‘Like

As’ is often used to show a definite function, job, or role.

For example-

  • He worked as a driver all summer.
  • I will dress as Cinderella this Halloween.

On the other hand, ‘Like’ is used to show a similar function, role, or job.

For example-

  • The movie was so tragic, I cried like a baby.
  • My mother is like a counselor to me.

Now you know the primary difference between ‘like’ and ‘as’.

‘As’ refers to something identical, but ‘Like’ references absolutely alike. Ironic isn’t it? Just like the English language.  

Confused? Well, let us move on to clarify the roles by individually looking at ‘like’ and ‘as’.

Uses of ‘Like’

‘Like’ is a widely used word in the English language. Until now, we saw the uses of it as a preposition to show similarity. But it is also used as other parts of speech. Let us have a look at the following different uses:

  1. I like this song. (verb)
  2. She sings like a nightingale. (preposition)
  3. Our likes do not match at all. (noun)
  4. He felt like he was about to explode. (conjunction)
  5. I need like-minded friends to achieve my objectives (adjective)
  6. The feeling he has for her is more like hate. (adverb)

Besides, ‘like’ is also a common filler word used when speaking informally.

You can observe how one word plays different functions in different contexts. Well, this is the beauty of the English language.

Uses of ‘As’

‘As’ is mostly used as a conjunction. You already know that ‘as’ is used to compare and denote sameness. But it has many other forms and similar usages. You might be familiar with some of these. Let us learn how to choose correctly.  

Other forms of ‘as’:

  1. as ___ as ____.

This is mainly used to compare something equal to someone or something.

Example:

  • Neil is not as tall as his father.
  • Her face shone as bright as the stars.
  • ‘As if’ and ‘as though’

These are two similar phrases used to show imaginary, unreal, or possible situations.

Example:

  • She looked as though she’d seen a ghost. (unrealistic comparison)
  • The presentation seemed as if it has been put a lot of effort into. (possibility)
  • I felt as if I was floating. (imaginary)

You can use ‘as if’ and ‘as though’ interchangeably. But, ‘as if’ is more common.

  • Conjunctive differences:

Look at the following:

By now, you would have understood the functions and differences of ‘like’ and ‘as’. Can you now figure out which to use and when?

  • It got darker as we drove into the forest. (denotes simultaneity)
  • She spoke up as she was tired of being accused. (specifies reason, substitute for ‘because’)

The major confusion with using ‘like’ and ‘as’ tends to arise when trying to use them to show similarity. But let me clear this up –

‘Like’ and ‘as’ have crucial functions in English composition such as in poetry. You might have heard about the poetic device – ‘Simile’ [ˈsɪmɪli]. It makes a comparison using the words ‘like’ and ‘as’.

The English language is not the strictest of languages. It is very flexible, dynamic, and constantly changing. Therefore, ‘like’ and ‘as’ are also sometimes used interchangeably by native and non-native speakers. It is incorrect but still acceptable as this video demonstrates.

Today you learned about which of these to use and when. Can you use it in poetry?

Did you enjoy this lesson? Let us know in the comments below if you have more doubts. Make sure you share this knowledge with others if you liked it.

Also, were you keeping count on how many times we use ‘like’ and ‘as’?

Further Reading

  1. http://partofspeech.org/what-part-of-speech-is-like/
  2. https://www.macmillandictionary.com/dictionary/british/like_1#:~:text=Like%20can%20be%20used%20in,t%20do%20this%20to%20me.
  3. https://www.grammar.com/the-word-like-serves-as-7-parts-of-speech0
  4. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=69IZZDivcZY
  5. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jq3-o2uSqms
  6. https://www.englishlessonviaskype.com/difference-between-like-and-as/
  7. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6nDEvB5eWDU)

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