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'as' and 'like'

Do you know how to use as and like correctly?

Look at these examples to see how as and like are used.

I worked as an actor for two years.
I went home early as I felt ill. 
He looks as if he hasn't slept.
As you know, this is the third time I've had to complain.
He looks like his dad. 
She's like a sister to me.
Try to do something relaxing, like reading a book or having a bath.

Try this exercise to test your grammar.

Grammar test 1

'as' and 'like': Grammar test 1

Read the explanation to learn more.

Grammar explanation

as and like are often confused since they can both be used for comparisons. There are, however, important differences.

Making comparisons

as + adjective + as and as much as

We often use the structure as + adjective + as or as much as to say if something has, or doesn't have, the same amount of that quality as something else. 

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!

You also have to use as in the expression the same as.

Your phone is the same as mine.
Texting is not the same as speaking in person.

like + noun

In the following comparisons, like is followed by a noun or a pronoun to say that two things are similar.

He's like a father to me.
She's acting like a child.
It's like a burger but with big mushrooms instead of bread.
There are lots of people like us.

It is also common to make comparisons using like with verbs of the senses.

She looks like her mother.
It sounds like a cat.
Nothing tastes like homemade lemonade.
It smells like medicine.
It feels like cotton.

as if/as though + clause

As if and as though can be used to compare a real situation to an imaginary situation. They are followed by a clause (a subject and verb).

You look as if you've seen a ghost.
I felt as if I was floating above the ground.
You talk as though we're never going to see each other again.

Giving examples

We can say like or such as to give examples. 

You could try a team sport like football, basketball or hockey.
You should take something soft, such as a towel, to lie on.

 

Talking about a job or function

We can use as + noun to talk about a job or function. 

I worked as a shop assistant for two years.
He used his coat as a blanket to keep warm.

 

as to connect two phrases

as can be used as a conjunction to connect two phrases. It can have different meanings.

as = 'because'

All the tickets were sold out as we got there too late.
As the road was closed, I had to park on the next street.

as = 'while' or 'during the time that'

She called as I was getting out of the bath.
As they were arriving, we were leaving.

as'in the way that'

As we expected, it started to rain.
As you know, classes restart on 15 January.
As I said, I think this project will be a challenge.

** Note that in informal speech, people sometimes say like for 'in the way that'.

Like I said, I didn't know her.

Do this exercise to test your grammar again.

Grammar test 2

'as' and 'like': Grammar test 2

Language level

Intermediate: B1

Comments

Hi,

We had dessert as we watched TV

Strike while the iron is hot

Somebody broke into the house while we were out.

In these three sentences, are 'while', 'when', and 'as' interchangeable?

Thanks teachers.

Hi Kashvi.la27,

You can use whenwhile and as in these sentences, but they mean slightly different things.

While might be the best option in all three sentences. In sentence 1, I imagine 'having dessert' as a quick action, and 'watching TV' as a longer action. While shows that the action had duration, and you can use it to show that one action happened in the middle of the other (having dessert happened in the middle of watching TV). The same goes for sentence 3 – 'we were out' is a longer action, and 'someone broke in' happened in the middle of it.

In sentence 2, I also prefer while because an iron will stay hot for quite a long time. But importantly, Strike while the iron is hot is an idiomatic phrase, so we can't change its wording much.

Does that make sense?

Best wishes,

Jonathan

Hi Sir,

Thanks for your reply.

Regarding the first sentence, could I say "We had dessert while we were watching TV"?

Hi cms10,

Yes! Using while we were watching makes the longer duration of the activity clear. The past continuous is often used with while.

Best wishes,

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

So both "We had dessert while we were watching TV" and "...while we watched TV" are grammatically correct? Apart from making the long duration clear by using the continuous tense, is there any difference in meaning?

Thanks teacher.

Hi cms10,

Yes! Both are grammatically correct. But, the past continuous is often used with while and it would be the more common tense to use. No, there's no other difference in meaning.

Best wishes,

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Hope you are doing well teachers!

I consulted my guide as I walked around the cathedral.

Would “while” be a possible alternative to "as" here because the sentence is talking about two long simultaneous actions?

When I was looking up the word “force” on the Internet, I saw this definition: Force is the physical strength of something that is shown as it hits something else

Would "when" be a possible alternative to "as" here?

Hi PabloTT,

Yes! In the first sentence, while emphasises the duration of walking around the cathedral. In the second sentence, when means the same as as.

Best wishes,

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Another coach-load of people arrived as we were leaving. - Would "while" rather than "as" be possible here?

Self-deprecation is a recurring feature as Stevenson talks. - Would "while" or "when" be possible here?

We were lying on the beach sunbathing as they were playing volleyball. - Since the two actions are not related, would "while" be a better option here?

Thank you so much teacher!

Hello MarciaBT,

Regarding your first question, we usually use 'while' to speak about two simultaneous long actions or situations. There is no strict definition of 'long', but in this case, the arrival of the coach is more of a point in time than a long action, so it would be odd to use 'while'. I would use 'as' here.

The second sentence sounds slightly odd to me because we usually speak about the feature of something, though I wouldn't say it's wrong. Personally, I'd say something like 'Self-deprecation is a recurring feature of Stevenson's talks.' I suppose you could say 'when' (though the sentence would sound equally as strange as the one you ask about due to 'feature of'), but 'while' would be even stranger for the same reason I mentioned above.

'while' would be the best option for the third sentence, for the same reason just mentioned.

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

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