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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,
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

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

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

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

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