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?”)