'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

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Submitted by Tawhid on Tue, 29/09/2020 - 06:56

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I can't ignore anyone. Both are highly important. This type of question for me like, Who is the greatest? Mother or Father.I don't care this type of question. Is In this context the use of "like" correct?And if have there any different errors,correct me please. Hope to hear from you.

Hello Tawid,

I think the way we would say it is this:

Questions like this one:

or

Questions like this:

 

However, I think the best way to say it would be to change the order a little:

I don't care for questions like this:

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by MarciaBT on Fri, 11/09/2020 - 15:35

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while its ambition of turning the company into one of the best, so too are the management ineptitude and structural obstacles that stand in their way. - Could I say "one of the best,...as are the management..." His frailty was evident, but so too was his deep feeling for her --> Could I say "but as was his..."? Thanks a lot.

Hello MarciaBT,

The first example does not make sense. It may be that the missing part of the sentence helps, but as it is quoted it is not grammatical.

In the second sentence you could replace 'but so too was his' with 'as was his' (without 'but').

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Profile picture for user Mr.hanymabrok

Submitted by Mr.hanymabrok on Fri, 11/09/2020 - 08:58

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Hello, Teacher 1- I felt as if I was floating above the ground. 2- You talk as though we're never going to see each other again. in the previous sentences do i can replace (as if) by ( as though) and vice versa??

Hello Mr.hanymabrok,

Yes, you can write both of these sentences with 'as if', and you can also write both of them with 'as though'.

'as if' (and even 'like') are more common in informal speaking nowadays, and 'as though' is a bit formal. But they all mean the same thing.

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by IsabelTim_123 on Thu, 10/09/2020 - 12:51

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Hi English Team, Hope you are doing well. I have a few Qs: 1. As the genetic secrets of muscle growth unfold, so the prospects for genetically manipulating muscle fibres improve. ---> Could I delete "so" here with no change in meaning? 2. Over time, as discontent grew, so did the number of protests. --> could I say "...the number of protests increased" 3. As global temperature rise, so too do health risks. --> How about "...health risks increase"

Hi IsabelTim_123,

Yes! All your suggestions work. It's good to be aware of various ways we can phrase things :)

Best wishes,

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Hi Jonathan, So is it correct to say there is no difference in meaning and it is only a matter of personal preference/style? Thanks.

Hi IsabelTim_123,

Yes, that's right. The meanings are the same, but the versions with so are more emphatic about the relatedness of the two events.

Best wishes,

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Norman A. Birt on Thu, 10/09/2020 - 11:02

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It's now common to hear people say 'it looks like it'll be a good day,' which sounds restricted and slovenly.I prefer to say 'it looks as if it'll be a good day'. 'Like' is increasingly used as if it were the only available word for expressing probability or likelihood.Its use in this way suggests an unduly limited vocabulary. If this is seen as a matter of taste I suggest that there is good taste and there is bad taste. Even worse, such expressions as 'it was like he'd never seen me before' are now commonly heard.I should prefer 'it was as if he'd never seen me before'.This conveys the same meaning but is far more elegant.

Submitted by LubNko525 on Wed, 09/09/2020 - 17:32

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Hi teachers, Wonder if you could help me: 1. As you get used to the work you will find it quite easy. [Am I right to say that the present tense should be used in the as-clause when referring to future?] 2. I will wash some clothes while you are out. [How about ...'when' or 'as' you are out?] 3. We will feel a lot better when we are lying on the beach next. [How about as or while here?] Thanks a lot.

Hi LubNko525,

1. The present tense is fine here. When we use 'as' with the meaning of 'when' (as in this example), the present tense is normal

2. 'While' is the most likely choice here as the action takes place during a longer period. 'When' is also possible. 'As' would have a different meaning. It would mean 'because' in this context.

3. Again, here 'as' would have the meaning 'because'. 'While' is fine.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by nicolettalee on Wed, 02/09/2020 - 02:24

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Hi Sir, I have two questions. Wonder if you could help me here... 1) "Britian's economy shrank by 22%, twice as MUCH as America." -- why is it not "as many as", given the word economy is a countable noun? 2) "You can fly to Paris for as LITTLE as 20 euros." -- why does it use "little" here? "Euros" here is a countable noun. Many thanks, Nicoletta

Hi nicolettalee,

In your first example, 'much' is used because you are not asking about the noun 'economy' but about the verb 'shrank'. In other words, you are asking about the degree of the action (an adverb), not the size of the noun (an adjective).

 

In your second question, 'little' describes the amount of money. When we talk about the cost of something we always ask 'How much...', even if the answer is in dollars, pounds, euros etc.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by giangphan on Tue, 25/08/2020 - 13:57

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Hi, Could you explain the grammar structure of this sentence? I feel like he doesn't love me. What is the function of like in this sentence? Thank you

Submitted by AsahiYo20 on Sun, 23/08/2020 - 03:46

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Hi teacher, It helps my concentration if I listen to music while I am working Can I use "as"? How about "while I work"? Thanks a lot teachers.

Hello AsahiYo20,

All of those are possible and the meaning does not change. It's really a question of style and preference here.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by IsabelTim_123 on Thu, 20/08/2020 - 11:27

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Dear English Team, 1. Stand still while I take your photo. - Could I say when/as? 2. lawmakers have accused the police of standing by as men dressed in white attacked citizens last week - Could I say "while/when men dressed..."? 3. As it leaves the village, the road climbs steeply up the mountain - Same as Q2, could I say "while/when it leaves..."? Many thanks.

Hi IsabelTim_123,

I'll try to answer your questions in turn.

  1. You can use while and as. But if you are taking the photo right now (i.e. you are asking the person to stand still right now), you can't use when. That's because when I take your photo means something like 'at the time when I take your photo'. It would be unusual and indirect to refer to the present moment in this way.
  2. Yes, all three are possible.
  3. Yes, all three are possible. But, we might prefer one word or another if we see the sentence in full context. For example, we might prefer while if we want to give a sense of the limited duration of the action ('leaving the village'), e.g. While it leaves the village, the road climbs steeply up the mountain. Then, it flattens out

Does that make sense?

Best wishes,

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Kashvi.la27 on Mon, 17/08/2020 - 12:24

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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.
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Submitted by Jonathan R on Tue, 18/08/2020 - 03:48

In reply to by Kashvi.la27

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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"?
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Submitted by Jonathan R on Wed, 19/08/2020 - 11:21

In reply to by cms10

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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

Submitted by cms10 on Fri, 21/08/2020 - 16:32

In reply to by Jonathan R

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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

Submitted by PabloTT on Fri, 14/08/2020 - 11:22

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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

Submitted by MarciaBT on Thu, 13/08/2020 - 11:43

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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

Submitted by Najmiii3579 on Wed, 12/08/2020 - 18:09

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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?

Submitted by Sunyoung1005 on Wed, 12/08/2020 - 06:11

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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?

No worries. All three words (whilewhenas) are grammatically correct in sentence 3. I don't think we can say which one is best – it just depends on how you want to represent the situation.

While shows that the action had duration, as you say. You can use this if you want to show clearly that one action happened in the middle of the other (noticing the missing page happened in the middle of signing).

If you just want to show that the two actions (signing and noticing the missing page) happened at the same time, as and when both work.

So, there's a small difference in meaning! But I guess that in most situations, this difference would not be important.

I hope that helps.

Best wishes,

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by cms10 on Mon, 10/08/2020 - 18:24

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Hi Sir, 1. "This is as exciting as I had imagined." - Why is the past perfect tense used instead of the simple past tense? 2. "You spent more money than was intended to be spent." - Could I say "...than intended to be spent" instead? Thanks Sir.
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Submitted by Peter M. on Wed, 12/08/2020 - 06:34

In reply to by cms10

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Hi cms10,

1. It's hard to be sure without knowing the context of the sentence. However, I would guess that the speaker is referring to a time before they tried whatever it is they are talking about. Thus you have three time references:

> now - it is exciting

> past - I started the activity

> further past - before I started the activity

 

2. No, that does not work. If you want to use the active form (intended) rather than the passive (was intended) then you need to be consistent and use an active verb following it (to spend not to be spent). You also need to include the subject:

You spent more money than you intended to spend.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Kashvi.la27 on Mon, 10/08/2020 - 05:55

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Hello English Team, 1. the books as listed below. - I saw this sentence on a website about the use of "as". It says "the books as listed below" is different from "the books listed below" but without giving an explanation. Could you tell me the difference between the two? 2. "She felt a great sense of pride as she watched him accept the award."; "The companies have upgraded their networks to improve their capacity as data traffic increases." - In these two sentences, could I replace "as" with "when"? Thanks a lot teachers!

Hello Kashvi.la27,

In this context 'as' means something like 'in the way'. Thus, 'listed below' tells us simply that the books are below the text. 'As listed below' would suggest a method or way of doing something. In the context of listing books for reference I don't think the difference is really important, but it would be important if, for example, the sequence were crucial for some reason.

 

As a time marker, 'as' tells us that one event occured simultaneously with another event; this would include one event occuring while another event is in progress. 'When' suggests that either the two events started together, or

 

She felt a great sense of pride as she watched him accept the award.

Replacing as with when changes the sentence somewhat. As tells us that she felt pride during the process of his accepting the award. When tells us that the event of his accepting caused her to feel pride. It doesn't tell us that she felt pride during the event (though she may have).

 

The companies have upgraded their networks to improve their capacity as data traffic increases.

Again, as here tells that the improvement takes place during the increase. Data traffic may increase every day and the improvement will keep pace with this. When would tell us that we expect an increase in data traffic at some point and the capacity will improve at this moment.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Thank you for your reply teacher. You said "'When' suggests that either the two events started together, or" - May I know whether you accidentally deleted the second part of the sentence? "She felt a great sense of pride as she watched him accept the award." - Regarding this sentence, when I saw this sentence, I thought "when" was a better choice because her feeling was caused by her watching him accept the award, whereas "as" does not convey the meaning of a causal relationship. Is this analysis of the sentence correct?

Hello again Kashvi.la27,

It seems the second half of the sentence was deleted by mistake. The full sentence was this:

When suggests that either the two events started together, or that one began immediately after the other began, possibly because it was caused by the first event.

 

Ordinarily, when would emphasise the possibility of a causal relationship, as you say. However, the particular context of your example makes the causality self-evident already. Given this, the choice is really whether you want to emphasise that the pride was felt during the receiving of the award or as a result of the receiving. The first (with as) suggests that the whole process - the ceremony etc - creates the woman's pride. The second (with when) suggests that it is the achievement - the actual award itself - which creates the woman's pride.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by aniley on Sat, 08/08/2020 - 11:22

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This lesson is perfectly summarized and it´s easy to understand . Thank

Submitted by Kashvi.la27 on Mon, 03/08/2020 - 11:48

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Hello English Team, I have two questions: (1) A review process can be changed as circumstances dictate. - What is the meaning of "as" in this sentence? Could I use "while" or "when" instead? (2) Please pile your homework books neatly on the table as you leave. - Could I use "before" in this sentence? Thanks a lot teachers.

Hello Kashvl.la27,

In (1), 'as' means 'in the way that someone says or that something happens, or in the condition something is in' (see entry 2.2 in the Longman dictionary). 'while' would not be correct here; 'when' would be possible and would have a similar meaning.

In (2) you could indeed say 'before' instead of 'as'. Although some might argue that 'before' and 'as' have different meanings here (the first being before you leave, the second being while you leave), but for most situations you could say both of these to achieve the same result.

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team