Wednesday, 17 January 2007

Ask About English! Q1: 'Like' and 'as'


I would like to ask what is the difference between like and as. I think it is very confusing and I do not know when I can use them.

Thanking you in advance


Dear K

This is a common problem for all Englsh speakers. I sometimes use these words wrongly.........

1: One major problem is that both can be used as prepositions.

If you are not sure whether to use like or as, try to replace the word with similar to or
similarly to; if you can, then the word you need is like :

Prince William looks like (similar to) his mother
Being in love is like (similar to) an illness
Ralph eats like (similarly to) a pig

As can also be used as a preposition, but only to talk about functions, jobs and roles of
people and things

Last year I worked as a receptionist (not similar to a receptionist)
The mobile phone functions as an MP3 player (it is also an MP3 player)
London is all right as a place to visit, but I wouldn't like to live there.


During the war the hotel was used as a hospital (it really was a hospital)
Everyone is ill at home. Our house is like a hospital (similar to)

Betty is a dentist. As a dentist, she has to spend hours looking into people's mouths
Dean is a dental nurse. Like a dentist, she also has to spend a long time looking into

2: As is used before a subject + verb but like is used before a noun or pronoun

I left everything as I found it
They did as they wanted (= they did what they wanted)
You should do it as I showed you
You should do it like this

3: Like and as can both be used as a conjunction.

Like is used in informal/spoken English, and as in formal/written English:

Like (or as) I said, she is in the shower
We won the match, just like (or as) I predicted.

4: Like and such as can also mean for example:

Some sports, like boxing, can be very dangerous.
I don't like stupid people, such as George Bush.

5: As is used in many expressions:

as usual, as you know, as you can see, as you can tell, as I said

I think that these are the main areas of confusion. I hope this has answered your question.

Thankyou for your question


If anyone has any further points to add, please leave them in the comments below