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The World of AS & LIKE (2)

March 3, 2013

Comparing

Traditionally, we EFL teachers in Spain have explained when to use “as” or “like” in the following way:

  • “LIKE” when what follows is a noun phrase (including pronouns and –ing nouns, of course). Examples: I’m like you! I’m as you are!
  • “AS” when what follows is a clause, meaning a Subject + Verb. Examples: I do the same(not so much: I do like you). I behave exactly as you do! Me, exactly like you! Exactly as you said!

However, in today’s English – because languages are ALIVE, never forget this, meaning They are constantly changing — native speakers have started to use “like + S + V” in informal spoken or written English. Examples: I’m like you are! I behave exactly like you behave!

What should you do in exams? (written or spoken). Well, if the situation or context for your task allows the use of informal language, you can use either of the two, but if the language you produce requires a more formal register, stick to what you always learned/learnt!

So — more on this last point:

British and US American Englishes

You can keep to the theoretical guideline explained here under “Comparing”, if you take the “like” below as part of the verb, “look like” (not “look” + “like”).
(And yes, there is another meaning to “look like” for both US and UK Englishes:
The girl looks like her sister. The girl and her sister look alike.)

LOOK LIKE / LOOK AS IF

  • US: The girl looks like she’s going to cry
  • UK: The girl looks as if she’s going to cry / The girl looks like she’s going to cry

However, we can use “like” like this, instead of “as if,” with other verbs: it sounds, it feels, they talk…

  • He’s acting as if he is in charge / like he’s in charge (informal)
  • He’s acting as if he was/were in charge (more unreal) like he was in charge (informal)
  • It sounds as if you were really upset about it (guessing = more unreal/tentative) / It sounds like you are really upset about it (more real, informal)
  • It feels as if it’s going to snow / as if it were going to snow (less real) / It feels like it’s going to snow…
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