Conventions of Composition Rule 200

Rule: Any phrase beginning with like implies that the thing being compared is NOT included in the comparison. If the item(s) being compared is(are) included in the set, use such as. Do not confuse like with as. Like cannot introduce a clause. Like is a preposition, a verb, or an adjective. As is a conjunction.

Rule: Like cannot mean said or thought and should not be used as filler.

Examples:

Correct: I love ball sports like football. (This sentence means I don’t like football, just similar sports.)

Correct: I love ball sports such as football and soccer. (I also love football and soccer.)

Correct: He runs like a gazelle.

Wrong: He runs like somebody is chasing him.

Better: He runs as if somebody is chasing him.

Wrong: When they said, "It's not safe," I was like, "Why not?"

Better: When they said, "It's not safe," I thought, "Why not?"

Also better: When they said, "It's not safe," I asked, "Why not?"

Examples:

Correct: I love ball sports like football. (This sentence means I don’t like football, just similar sports.)

Correct: I love ball sports such as football and soccer. (I also love football and soccer.)

Correct: He runs like a gazelle.

Wrong: He runs like somebody is chasing him.

Better: He runs as if somebody is chasing him.


Practice deciding if and when to use like:

  1. Elise and Nathalie danced like they could have been in Chicago's Joffrey Ballet Company.

  2. Vladimir wanted to eat like a hundred soft-serve ice creams.

  3. On their camping trip, Liam and Oscar brought supplies like a tent, sleeping bags, and a water filter.

  4. Like my mother always says, "Treat other people like you want to be treated."


Resources for further explanation of how to use (and not use) like:

To Learn English's The Difference between Like and As

English Grammar's Like and As