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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 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

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.

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

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

Thanks Peter.

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