SOS English: “Like”

The word “like” is probably one of the most-used and sometimes even most confusing words to exist since it has a vast number of meanings and uses. In the written form, “like” can act as a verb, a preposition, conjunction, and even a suffix. However, in informal speaking, it has several other functions that must NOT be used in formal writing. So, let’s have a closer look!

“Like” in the Written Form

Verb: to enjoy or to feel positive about something 

Do you like pizza?

I like swimming in the sea.

He doesn’t like to go to school.

We don’t like what they did.

Offers and Requests: 

Would you like another cup of tea? (being polite)

I’d like a hamburger and sweet potato fries, please. (ordering food)

Would you like to follow me, please? (a politer version of “Please follow me”)

Preposition: “similar to”

The cookies taste like the ones my grandma used to make.

This fabric feels like silk.

It looks a bit like it’s about to rain soon.

Conjunction: In informal context only! Used as an alternative for “as.”

Like my mom would always say, “Actions speak louder that words.”

(As my mom would always say…)

Suffix: combined with a noun to describe similarities

His child-like behavior was the reason for their breakup.

“Like” in Spoken Form

Filler: Used to fill in the silence while speaking when we need time to think about what to say next. Similar to “um,” “uh,” “er,” “ah,” “you know,” etc.

I want to… like…I think we need to use a different approach.

It’s a complicated topic…like…it’s hard to find the right words.

Focusing: To bring attention to what we’re about to say next. Especially when talking about time and quantity.

There were like a hundred hot air balloons in the sky yesterday! (focusing on the vast amount of balloons)

It was like 3 pm or so when I finally went to bed. (focusing on how late it was)

Reported Speech: You can use the verb “like” in informal speaking for reported speech.

We were like, “Whoa! That’s not happening!”

When I asked him about his opinion, he was like, “No, it’s too embarrassing to talk about my feelings this way,” and I was like, “But it’s important that they know!”

Descriptions: “Like” can also be used to ask for a description of something or someone (character- and personality-wise).

What’s the band’s new song like? (NOT “How’s the band’s new song like?”)

What’s your brother-in-law like? (NOT “How’s your brother-in-law like?”)

What does her new haircut look like? (NOT “How’s her new haircut look like?”)