Like and as
In the next sections we are looking at ‘like’ and ‘as’ as prepositions (i.e. followed by a noun or pronoun) and as conjunctions (i.e. followed by a subject + verb).
Like: form and uses
We use ‘like’ when we want to say that something (a noun) is similar to something else (another noun).
Examples of ‘like’ as a preposition include ‘he lives like a vagrant’ or ‘she walks like a cat’.
'Like' can also be used as a conjunction and is then mostly found in informal spoken English or written dialogue in place of 'as'. Examples of 'like' as a conjunction include "Nobody can talk like I do". However, "Nobody can talk as I do" has the same meaning.
As: form and uses
We use ‘as’ when we want to say that something or someone has the role or appearance of something.
Examples of ‘as’ as a preposition include, ‘he worked as a nurse’. This has quite a different meaning to ‘he worked like a nurse’, which implies he worked as hard as a nurse might, rather than the first sentence which explains that he had an actual job as a nurse.
Further examples of ‘as’ as preposition include, ‘I’m dressing up as a devil’ or ‘she’s speaking as the director’.
When 'as' is used as a conjunction it is the more formal and grammatically correct choice over 'like'. An example of 'as' as a conjunction include, "This burger tastes as a burger should". This sounds more formal than "This burger tastes like a burger should".
“Like” and “as”, be careful!
In some idioms where one is expressing similarity ‘as’ may be used instead of ‘like’. When comparing to a specific characteristic of a person or thing, the structure ‘as + adjective + as’ is often used i.e. 'he is as rich as Midas'.
'As' and 'Like' can also give completely different meanings to a sentence when they are used as prepositions, like in the following examples:
|As||Shaun Lloyd is the owner of the zoo, as the owner, he has overall responsibility for the animals. (‘As the owner’= in his position as the owner)|
|Like||Shaun's daughter, Gemma helps him and will eventually inherit the zoo. Like the owner (Shaun Lloyd), she also has a duty of care to the animals. (‘Like the owner’ = similar to the owner)"|