Like as a Verb
Like as a Preposition
So does “He was like a father to me.”
But virtually everyone addicted to the like word uses it to show not what something is like but what something actually is. They use it to show identity (is), not similarity (like): He’s like tall. Well, is he or isn’t he?
Like as a Noun
Like as an Adjective
Like as an Adverb
Like as a Conjunction
Charles Darwin wrote in 1866: “Unfortunately few have observed like you have done.” New Fowler, p. 458. (Note: Click for a list of sources used throughout Grammar.com. Hold the Ctrl key down when you click here.)
Consider the words of Random House:
Like as a conjunction meaning “as, in the same way as” (Many shoppers study the food ads like brokers study market reports) or “as if” (It looks like it will rain) has been used for nearly 500 years and by many distinguished literary and intellectual figures. Since the mid-19th century there have been objections, often vehement, to these uses. Nevertheless, such uses are almost universal today in all but the most formal speech and writing. In extremely careful speech and in much formal writing, as, as if, and as though are more commonly used than like: The commanding general accepted full responsibility for the incident, as any professional soldier would. Many of the Greenwich Village bohemians lived as if (or as though) there were no tomorrow. Random House, p. 1114.
The Oxford English Dictionary notes that examples of the use of like as a conjunction do appear in the works of “many recent writers of standing” but also points out that such use is “generally condemned as vulgar or slovenly . . . .” Quoted in New Fowler, p. 458.
As a budding grammarian, you should know of this battle. At Bubba’s you can easily get away with using like as a conjunction. But in formal settings—the faculty lounge, scholarly writing (and talking), your master’s thesis, your resume—you should use the traditional conjunctions as, as if, and as though. In the words of New Fowler:
It would appear that in many kinds of written and spoken English like as a conjunction is struggling towards acceptable standard or neutral ground. It is not there yet. But the distributional patterns suggest that the long-standing resistance to this omnipresent little word is beginning to crumble. New Fowler, p. 459.
Next week we’ll look at the views of some experts. I think you’ll enjoy seeing what Henry Fowler and Bryan Garner think of the like word. Their views might prompt you either to break your own habit or to help others break theirs.
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