'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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Language level

B1 English level (intermediate)

Im confused with the grammar rule of as if and as though.i have read in my grammar book that as if/as though are used with past even though the meaning is present.But here i found sentences
with present tense So what's the difference?when should we use them with present and when with past ?

Hello Faii,

If we use 'as if'/'as though' plus a past tense, it does indeed refer to the present. The past tense form also emphasises the unreality of the statement.

For example, if I say (1) 'She's looking at you as if she knew you', the past form 'knew' shows that I am certain that in fact she does not know you.

On the other hand, if I say (2) 'She's looking at you as if she knows you', the present form 'knows' shows that I think that perhaps she does know you.

So both 1 and 2 talk about what a situation looks like, but in 1 I think the appearance is false and in 2 I think it could be true or it could be false.

Does that make sense?

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

Thanks. It makes sense but im still not totally sure .i mean I have checked another grammar book and I found this example:I feel as if I'm dying.Dying is obviously here an unreal situation then why did they use present tense here?

Hello Faii,

That's a good point -- it's possible to use a present form even when we feel confident the situation isn't true. In this case, I think it's best understood as a kind of exaggeration for emphasis. In this case, for example, the speaker may actually feel really awful, or perhaps they just want to exaggerate for some reason.

Hope this helps.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

Thanks for the explanation. I got it.But if we use "as if" for past situation how will we know whether it's referring to a "past unreal situation" or a "past real situation"?
Like in this sentence-"She sounded as if She had a cold"

Hello again Faii,

I'm afraid there is no way to know simply be analysing the words themselves. Knowledge of the situation and the speaker's intentions will probably make it clear, but if not, one has to make a guess or ask for more information. In the case of sentences such as 'She looked as if she were going to explode', it's most likely safe to say this is an unreal situation, but if the context is one in which the person has experienced something difficult, 'She looked as if she were going to cry' is probably real.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

I knew of as like somehow, after this lesson I learned more about as and like and on usage, it was more useful.

Hi Teacher!
When giving examples:
You could try a team sport like football, basketball or hockey.
You should take something soft, such as a towel, to lie on.

Do we always use LIKE when mentioning a list, and SUCH AS when just naming a unique option? is that a rule?

Hi dayanalipe,

You can use both of these for both uses:

You could try a team sport like football, basketball or hockey.

You should take something soft, like a towel, to lie on.

You could try a team sport such as football, basketball or hockey.

You should take something soft, such as a towel, to lie on.



The LearnEnglish Team

Hi, teacher. I have a question. In the sentence "We've only just met, but I feel like though I've known you all my life. " Why "like" is incorrect?

Hello Agness,

There are three correct ways to express this idea using these words:

  1. 'I feel like I've known you'
  2. 'I feel as though I've known you'
  3. 'I feel as if I've known you'.

It's not correct to say 'like though'.

Does that make sense?

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

Hi teacher, I have a question. In the sentence " I slept on the train, using my jacket like a pillow." Why "like" is incorrect?

Hello Dianarosedi,

We use 'like' to mean 'similar to' or 'in a similar way to'. We use 'as' to mean 'in the same way' or 'in place of'.

In your example, the jacket is not just used in a similar way to a pillow; it effectively becomes the pillow. You are using it in exactly the same way as a pillow. Really, you are making a pillow out of your jacket, so 'as' is the best option.



The LearnEnglish Team

Hi sir, I know this is Off-topic but
Do you know the difference between 'How do you feel' and 'What do you think'?
Thank you.

Hi Duclkbgvcp,

There is a difference in their literal meaning. 'How do you feel?' asks about feelings/emotions, and 'What do you think?' asks about thoughts/ideas. However, in everyday communication, people often use both questions in the same way - when they want to know the other person's reaction or view generally, no matter whether it involves feelings or thoughts.

I hope that helps.


The LearnEnglish Team

Yes, I think" how do you feel?" is when asking about feelings and answer will be a degree of feeling like good, bad, better, sad, gappy...etc
On the other hand, what

Dear teaching team,
I'm a little bit confused about the example "You look as if you've seen a ghost". Why it isn't "... as if YOU'D seen a ghost". It's an unreal past action, isn't it?

Hello Panassum,

The conjunction 'as if' does not introduce a condition. It introduces a comparison in the same way that 'like' does. Thus, we are not describing a hypothetical situation but rather a point of comparison and the present perfect form is correct: this is how a person looks who has just seen a ghost.



The LearnEnglish Team

Hello Ajay007,

I'm supposing what you mean is 'You looked as if you'd just seen a ghost'. In this case, 'have just seen' is not correct because a present perfect form doesn't coordinate with the past time of the past simple verb 'looked'. Instead, we use a past perfect form, which refers to a time previous to the one indicated by the past simple.

If you meant something else, please provide the specific sentence you're asking about.

Best wishes,
The LearnEnglish Team

Hi teachers,

I saw one example sentence from the University of Cambridge (from their dictionary) which is: 'The floods were rising and it was as if it was the end of the world.'

Could you please explain why we dont write '... as if it HAD BEEN the end of the world.' instead?

Thank you very much!


Hi Dung,

Had been (past perfect) shows that the action (the end of the world) happened earlier than the other past action. However, in this sentence, the rising floods themselves are what seem like the end of the world (i.e., it is at the same time as the floods). Does that make sense?


The LearnEnglish Team

I am not a teacher but I've noticed something it might help or not. Anyway, it says 'You LOOK as if you HAVE seen a ghost.' and the other example is 'The floods WERE rising and it WAS as if it WAS the end of the world.'

The first verbs give an idea about the time they were talking about so I believe we can understand the time and continue with a needed time.
But of course this is my idea it might be wrong as well. I reckon we need to look for more examples.

This topic was very interesting, and I learned as much as I could about it. they are used for comparison. Thanks

hello have a great time
i need to understand and learn english as well as native language 'cause i am going to keep on my education in english language university.
my major will be medical sciences.
how can i progress earlier?

thanks alot for your reply

Hello zahra khawari,

That sounds like a great plan. I'd suggest you start working in our Skills section, where you can find lots of materials at different levels. If you already know your level, you can start with the materials at that level; if you don't know your level, try out quick level test (https://learnenglish.britishcouncil.org/online-english-level-test). As you work, if you find it too difficult, try a lower level; if you find it very easy, try a higher level.

You might also want to consider our Online courses (https://learnenglish.britishcouncil.org/online-courses), where you can choose from several paid options.

Best wishes,
The LearnEnglish Team

Hello teachers,
Would you please explain, which is correct from the following sentences.
-He treated me as if I made mistake.
-He treated me as if I had made mistake.
If both are correct, what is the difference?

Thank you, team.

Hello Risa warysha,

The second one is the correct form. The 'had made' form refers to an unreal past action, i.e. one that did not actually occur.

The 'made' form (in the first sentence) could only refer to the same time period as 'treated' or a later time period, but these don't make any sense as far as I can tell. One could possibly say 'He treated me as if I were making a mistake' to refer to an action happening at the same time as 'treated', but not 'made'.

Hope that clears it up for you.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

Hello sir, this is an extract from a newspaper's article.
"Oxford Economics rates the probability of a repeat of 2014-15 as “medium” not high. (China’s inventory of unsold properties, it points out, is lower now than it was seven years ago.) It thinks the chances of a repeat of an American or a Spanish-style disaster are low. Both the scenarios assume that China’s policymakers would respond only by easing monetary policy. But a more forceful reaction seems likely. Although the authorities’ “pain threshold” has increased, meaning they do not intervene """"as quickly""""" to shore up growth, they still have their limits. “I don’t think the Chinese government is dogmatic. It is quite pragmatic,” says Tao Wang of ubs, a bank.
I would like to know what as in “as quickly” phrase means. Is the usage of “as” here the same as “As—As” used in comparison? If it was used as a comparison, why did they use just one ‘as’? Does it have to be two “as---as” form?
I also noticed these examples from reading some news.
• Before covid-19 the country had only 3.6 critical-care beds per 100,000 people. Singapore has three times ***as*** many.
• Thanks to this doctor’s unique method, he first injection to the baby has never been easier. The second shot doesn’t go quite ***as*** smoothly though.
Please kindly explain the usage of as in these examples as well and give me more examples with this kind of usage so that I can understand. I would like to have confidence in my knowledge. Thank you sir.

Hi Bo Bo Kyaw,

Yes! This is the 'as ... as ...' meaning used in comparison. In these examples, the second 'as' is implied, rather than stated explicitly. The meanings are:

-- they do not intervene as quickly as they would without the high 'pain threshold'
-- three times as many as what was mentioned in the previous sentence
-- The second shot doesn’t go quite as smoothly as the first injection.

I hope that helps.

The LearnEnglish Team

Hi Bo Bo Kyaw,

Sure. Here are some more examples.

-- His sister's 2 metres tall. But he's not as tall. (i.e., He's not as tall as his sister.
-- The other hotel's very expensive. This one's not as expensive. (i.e., It's not as expensive as the other hotel.)
-- Warsaw has a population of 1.7 million people. Budapest is just as big. (i.e., It is just as big as Warsaw)

As you can see, only the first part of the structure, "as" + adjective or adverb, is present. The second part of the structure (the second "as") is not present. Instead, we use information from the previous sentence to understand what "as + adjective" is comparing to.

I hope that helps.

The LearnEnglish Team

Thanks a million sir.
Could you kindly check if these sentences are correct? sir
E.g. 1 There were many people in the cinema. I didn't expect so many.
E.g. 2 Dylan has a lot of friends. But I don't have as many.
E.g. 3 My cousin has travelled to a lot of places. I have not travelled to as many.
E.g. 4 Japanese people work very hard. We don't work as hard.

Hi Jonathan,

I remember that the Beatles had a song called: "Free as a bird". Would it be wrong to say "Free like a bird"? (If not, then please explain).

Thanks in advance