How to use AS and LIKE

Welcome to today’s Lunchtime Lessons post. This week we are looking at how to use the words AS and LIKE. Our Lunchtime Lessons are are free Online English classes where we look at areas of English which are often difficult for students.

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How to Use AS and LIKE

All right, everyone. So today’s lunchtime lesson, we’re going to be talking about two words which are really commonly confused and those are as and like.
 
So before we start talking about them, if you’ve got a  pen and a paper, or if you want to be more modern, you can open a Google doc on your computer, whatever you prefer, and I just want you to have a look at these sentences and make a little note if you think they are correct or if they’re incorrect. If you think they’re incorrect, consider how you want to change them. .
 
Those examples I just gave you are some of the really common mistakes that I hear all the time from students. As and like can be really confusing because they quite often have similar functions, but also they’re used in a variety of lots of different functions as well. This is why, logically, it’s hard for us to choose them correctly, but as well as the different functions, As and Like quite often have a different register, too. So they could be formal or informal. And quite often students don’t choose the appropriate one for the register that you’re working with.
 
As well as that, we also use them in quite a lot of expressions. We’re not going to look at the expressions so much today. We’re just going to focus on the functions. Some of what I’m going to take you through some is quite basic. But like I say, it is things that are repeated errors by people. And then we’re just going to consider the register of as and like,

To Compare

We use as and like a lot for making comparisons. So of course we have  your basic comparative structure to say something is the same or has the same quality  with as + adjective as . What I mean by that is:

  • she loves curry as much as I do.
  • He’s not as tall as his brother.
  • It’s not as expensive as the other hotel.
  • That dog is as big as that child.

 
Which I’m sure you’ve all seen before and you probably are familiar with. And we also have the expression the same as to say that something is equal. So :

  •  your phone is the same as mine.
  • Texting isn’t the same as in person.

Please be careful because it is not the same THAN, which is a really common mistake that I hear all the time as well. This does not exist, it’s the same AS.
 
OK, so that’s the way that we use As for making comparisons and we also use like for making comparisons. So we use like + a noun to say that two things are very similar. So for example:

  • he’s like a father to me
  • she’s acting like a child.
  • It’s like a burger, but with mushrooms 
  • there are lots of people like us.

I’m also using like to compare here  but it’s a little bit different because in these examples – if I think he’s like a father to me – is he my father? No. She’s acting like a child –  Is she a child? No, and it’s like a burger, but is it a burger? No.
 
So in these examples here, I’m making a comparison of similarity, but it’s not like the examples we saw before. What I’m talking about, something that is equal. If I say it’s as big as this car, that’s to say it’s an equal size. So we’ve got a slightly different function of how we’re making these comparisons. Let me give you a couple more examples. Let’s look at this sentence,

  • He’s working as a child minder 
  • she’s acting like a child

So let’s think about the functions of as and like in these examples.
 
So in the first one. What is AS doing here? Is it making a comparison? So we’re describing specifically here a a job or a function, in this case a job. As is being used here, not to make a comparison, but to provide a description, but l ike  is the same as the example we saw over here, to compare. Like we said here, she’s acting like a child. She isn’t actually a child. I’m just making a comparison about that. So a good example of that would be to say I’m working like a dog and I’m working as a dog. Those are two very, very different things. This is a really common mistake as well, guys – he’s as a father to me. I see this all the time, so I cannot use as to form this sentence. So what’s the problem? What should we have? –  Like.

OK, what about this sentence? What’s wrong with it? We always need to have an article. Whenever you’re talking about jobs in English, you need to have an article. I think everyone is a Spanish speaker on the call today so watch out for that, guys. That’s a first language translation problem because in Spanish you do not use articles when you talk about professions. So that’s why we make these little mistakes.

Verbs of the senses

When we’re talking about comparisons, you’ll very often see like used with what we call verbs of the senses. Verbs of the senses are seem, appear, taste, feel and so on. If we’re making a comparison with a clause, then I don’t use like I use as if or as though + clause. Having said that, don’t worry too much about that. It’s not a communicative error if you say like instead of as if as everyone’s going to understand you. There are more important things to consider about when we’re using as and like, but just be aware of it.

Giving Examples

Right, another time that we use as and like is if we’re giving examples. There are two important aspects to this, let’s look at some examples:

  • I love healthy food like kale and spinach 
  • eating healthy food such as kale and spinach is important.

The first thing I really want to point out is when I’m using as as an example, it has to have the word such.I can’t use it independently, you have to use such if you’re going to give an example. A mistake I always see is eating healthy food as kale and spinach. Watch out for that. Make sure that you’re using such.

The second thing is that we need to think about is the register. So look at the two sentences, which is more formal, sentence number one or sentence number two? Yes, number two.

How do you know that that second sentence is more formal? What information do you have? What helps you see that it’s formal? OK, the structure- so what about the structure? What changes from this one to this one? Look at the subject. What’s the subject each sentence? So I’m using a gerund here as my subject instead of a pronoun. and that’s creating distance, By not making it personal, I’m making it more formal. And then we’ve got the word love here in that first sentence, which is more informal as well. And then of course the words that we’ve chosen to give our examples.

So if I changed those, if I said I love healthy food such as kale and spinach or eating healthy food like kale and spinach  in terms of meaning that’s not incorrect because both of them are giving examples. However, it’s not the best choice because of the register of the sentence we’re working with. We’re using like in an informal to neutral register and we’re using such as for a more formal register.

If you’re doing writing , especially for exams, such as is a really nice choice for your essays, your reports and your proposals. You could use like and such as for for an essay report or a proposal for a first certificate or a Cambridge or an IELTS exam because they’re not overly overly formal. Remember, like is OK to be in a neutral register. So it’s useful to have both because you can have more ways to give examples. But if you are writing an informal email to a friend, I would not use such as because it’s overly formal. And the most important thing is to remember that it has to have the words such, you can’t use as by itself.

Linkers

As is also used as a linker, and what can make it really confusing as a linker is that it’s got lots of different functions as well.

  • We’ll see as being used as because in a neutral  to formal register.
  • We can use as to mean while or during the time, and that’s just a neutral register.
  • We can also use as to mean in the way that. You can also think about these ones here like chunks of language. Sometimes people might say like instead of as in a slightly more informal English with no difference in meaning, people are going to understand you perfectly.

Summary

OK, so let’s go back to those sentences from the beginning. Can you review your answers and decide if there’s anything you want to change or if you’re still happy with the answers that you gave at the start?
 
Let’s have a look at the correct answers.
 

  • I work as waiter – I work as A waiter
  • I look like  super model – correct
  • He seems as a nice guy – he seems LIKE a nice guy o
  • She enjoys studying lots of things as math and science – she enjoys studying lots of things SUCH as math and science
  • She is very clever, but as me, she’s too lazy to study – she’s very clever, but LIKE me, she’s too lazy to study.
  • Like you know, it’s important to keep fit – as you know it’s important to keep fit

 
In my experience, the ones that people make the most errors with are:

  • she enjoys studying lots of things as math and
  • She is very clever, but as me, she’s too lazy to study

 
They’re the ones to be careful with. They’re not terrible errors, if you’re speaking to someone, everyone will understand exactly what you’re saying. But it’s a bit like with gerunds and infinitives. When we talked about gerunds and infinitives, these are the kind of errors that in writing really, really stand out and look rubbish. If you’re doing exams, they’re the kind of things that examiners are going to notice and mark you down for, so please watch out for those.
 

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