“LIKE” – several meanings and uses
Grammar > Like
Like has a number of meanings and uses.
Like as a verb meaning ‘enjoy’
We use like to talk about things or people which we enjoy or feel positive about:
like + noun phrase
I like Sarah but I don’t like her brother much.
Do you like pasta?
She really likes the singing of Luciano Pavarotti.
like + -ing
I like swimming before breakfast.
He likes telling jokes.
like + to-infinitive
She likes to go and see her parents at the weekend.
I don’t like to cycle in the dark.
He likes his friends to call him Hank.
Do you think she would like us to bring some chocolates or flowers?
like + wh-clause
I don’t like what he did.
We liked how they cooked the fish.
Would like in offers and requests
We use would like or ’d like to offer something to someone in a polite way or to ask them to do something politely (requests), or politely to say what we want. We use the to-infinitive form of verbs that follow:
Would you like another coffee?
Would you like to watch a DVD?
[At a fast food restaurant]
How can I help you?
I’d like a cheese burger and fries please.
[In an email to a company that has advertised a job]
… I’d like to enquire about the Sales Manager position which you have advertised …
Would you like to follow me, please? (Please follow me)
Like as a preposition meaning ‘similar to’
Like means ‘similar to’. We often use it with verbs of the senses such as look, sound, feel, taste, seem:
My sister is like my mother. (My sister and my mother are similar)
I think this tastes like coconut.
That looks like Marco’s car.
He seems like a nice man.
When we use like to mean ‘similar to’, we can put words and phrase such as a bit, just, very, so and more before it to talk about the degree of similarity:
It’s a bit like skiing but there’s no snow.
Isn’t that just like the bike we bought you for your birthday?
That smells very like garlic.
The car was more like a green than a blue colour.
Like as a conjunction
In informal contexts, we can use like as a conjunction instead of as. Traditional grammar books consider this use of like incorrect:
Like any good cook book will tell you, don’t let the milk boil. (or As any good cook book …)
Like as a suffix
We can use like as a suffix at the end of a noun to mean ‘similar to’:
There is something child-like about Marianne. She always seems so innocent.
Like in spoken English
In informal speaking, you will hear like used very commonly. It has a number of functions. It is important not to use these forms in formal writing such as academic essays.
We can use like to fill in the silence when we need time to think about what to say next or how to rephrase what we have just said:
I want to … like … I think we need to think carefully about it. It’s … like … it’s a very difficult decision for us to make.
We can use like to bring attention to what we are going to say next. We do this especially when talking about quantities and times:
There were like five hundred guests at the wedding. (like brings focus to the large number of guests)
It wasn’t till like 12:00 that I actually got to start on the project. (like brings focus to how late it was)
Asking for an example (Like what?)
In speaking, we often use like what? to ask for an example:
Some really funny things happened on the last day of school.
Funny things? Like what?
It can also be used to ask a question, meaning ‘similar to what?’:
[talking about a new restaurant]
There was kangaroo steak on the menu. I decided to try it.
Yeah. It actually tasted good.
I don’t know. Like steak but softer.
Softening what has just been said
We can use like at the end of what we say to modify or soften what we have just said especially if we are not sure if it was the right thing to say:
[A and B are talking about B’s holiday]
So did you buy anything there?
No. It was too expensive, like.
I hated the film. It was very violent, like.
It has become common in very informal speaking to use like as a reporting verb. It can be used to report what someone said or what someone thought. It is used especially by young people, and it makes what is reported sound more dramatic:
Jason was like ‘I’m not going to Alma’s party because Chris is going to be there’ and I’m like ‘he’s so afraid of Chris’. (in the first use of like, it means ‘he said’, but in the second use it means ‘I thought’)
Saying something is like something else
We can use the structure it + be + like to introduce an example or say that something is similar to something else:
It’s like when you go to the airport and you keep thinking that you have forgotten something important.
[a woman talking about her husband Bob]
Everyone is always saying hello to Bob. It’s like being married to a superstar!
Be like or what is … like?
We can use be like to ask for a description of someone or something (e.g. their appearance, their character, their behaviour):
What’s your new apartment like?
Not: How is your new apartment like?
Be like or look like?
We use be like to talk about someone’s character or personality. We use look like to talk about someone’s appearance:
What’s your new boss like?
She’s nice. She’s very professional.
Not: She’s like a very professional person.
What does your father look like?
He’s very like me but taller and older!
What is Martina’s new boyfriend like?
B:He’s really nice.
|What is his personality like? Is he nice?|
What does Martina’s new boyfriend look like?
B:He’s tall, with blond hair.
|What is his appearance like? Is he handsome?|