Friday, January 20, 2006

Like/As if

Here is a very helpful post from Triangle Grammar Guide on the use of like and as if:

Write as if you know what you are doing

"Like" is a preposition and should not be used at the beginning of a clause. Here is an example I encountered in my editing recently: The two friends look like they’d be more at home knocking the stuffing out of people on a football field. I changed that "like" to "as if." I seem to do that a lot, so it occurs to me that writers either don't know the correct usage or are deliberately ignoring it in favor of "conversational" writing.

John Bremner in "Words on Words" has a clear rule for determining whether to use "like" or "as/as if." Remember that "like" means "similar to" or "similarly to." Substitute "similar to" in the sentence above: The two friends look similar to they’d be more at home knocking the stuffing out of people on a football field. You can see that how wrong that is or hear how incorrect it sounds.

The post clears up for me the difference between like and as if in a way that helps me understand how the words differ in use.


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william.bingham said...

Don't forget the song "Cobwebs" by Louden Wainwright III, on this very subject.

John said...

Thank you.

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Katascha Lynn said...

Thank you! I remember in 8th grade English my teacher, Mrs. Witt, told us a trick for knowing when to use "like" and "as if." I was looking for this trick when I googled how to use these words. I'm not 100% if this was the same trick as hers, but I find this useful just the same.