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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

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

Thanks for your reply Kirk!

Regarding the first sentence, from a grammar book I have, "as", "when" and "while" can be used to introduce a longer background action and to talk about something that happens when something else takes place.

Could I say that "we were leaving" is a longer background action, thus justifying the use "while" in this sentence?

Hello MarciaBT,

If it were me, I'd choose 'as', but yes, you could use 'while' there.

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Sir, what is the use and function of "as" in the following sentences" Would it still be grammatically correct if I delete it?

- the requirements of this legislation are applied with modifications as set out in the supplemental regulations.

- An invoice is for goods supplied or work done as agreed between a customer and supplier.

Hello Najmiii3579,

The first sentence is not really well-formed in my opinion, but yes, you could delete 'as' and it would mean much the same thing. This is not always possible, though. Here it works because it would be understood as a reduced relative clause ('modifications that were set out').

Without 'as', the second sentence would not be correct.

The explanation on this page doesn't fully cover all the uses of 'as'. You might find it useful to have a look at this page.

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Thank you for your explanation.

I have looked up the meaning of “as”. One of its meaning is “in a similar way to sth” – Is this the meaning of “as” in 2nd sentence (“An invoice is for goods supplied or work done as agreed between a customer and supplier.”)?

Am I right to say “as” cannot be deleted in this sentence because “… work done agreed” would not be grammatically correct if we changed it to a reduced relative clause?

Hi English Team,

I am so glad to find out this page. It seems so useful to improve my English skills. And I have some questions:

1. The ice cracked as I stepped onto it. --> Could I use "when" instead of "as"?

2. He jumped to his feet as the boss came in. --> Could I use "when" instead of "as"?

3. As they were signing the contract, they noticed that a page was missing. --> Could I use "when" or "while" instead of "as"?

Thanks a lot.

Hi Sunyoung1005,

Thanks for your kind comment :)

Yes, all three sentences work with both as and when. Both words show actions happening at the same time.

There's a small difference: when can also show actions happening one after the other (i.e. not at the same time). So, if one action caused the other one to happen, when is a good choice, and I slightly prefer when in sentences 1 and 2. But, we can also think of those actions as happening at the same time, so as is fine too.

In sentence 3, using while suggests that signing the contract had some duration (i.e. it took some time).

Best wishes,

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Thanks for your detailed reply teacher.

Regarding sentence 3, I also have the feeling that using "while" would suggest the signing of the contract had some duration. In sentence 3, is it correct to say "as" or "when" would be better than "while", although the latter is not grammatically correct?

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