CS Sealey

New Zealand-based sub-editor, writer and author

The difference between like and as

TLDR: Both these words have multiple meanings, but basically… like means ‘similar to something’ or ‘as though’. As by itself is used to compare two things or as a conjunction.

Apologies for my brief absence—the World Cup tends to do that when you’re living on the side of the globe everyone forgets about!

Like and as are sometimes confused as they often serve similar purposes in a sentence. For the sake of simplicity, I will omit the use of like as a verb (to like something or to be liked) and a combining form (cat-like movements).

like (preposition)—having similar characteristics or traits to something else; used to express the nature of an action or thing; such as, for example

I was sweating like a pig after the game.

‘I’m sick of you acting like a child!’

Why does Batman have to talk like that?

I enjoy listening to artists like Devin Townsend and Trent Reznor.

like (conjunction)—in the same way that; as if, as though

‘I change my name like I do my socks now,’ he admitted.

Josh felt like he’d been hit in the head with a frying pan.

like (noun)—used to express that a person or thing is similar to another

Paula knew his like and the devious games they played.

Oh, the scream! I’ve never heard the like before.

We walked into the museum that was filled with paintings the likes of which I have never seen before.

like (adjective)—something having similar characteristics or traits to something else

A gathering of like-minded people.

like (adverb)—an informal, meaningless filler in spoken conversation; an informal description of a person or thing’s actions

It was, like, really big.

He was crossing the road and was all like, ‘I’m walking here!’

As you can see, like has a wide variety of uses and I haven’t even mentioned them all!

as (adverb)—used to express a comparison; used to emphasise an amount of something

‘I’ll blow this whistle, then you run as fast as you can.’

I wasn’t as impressed with Brazil’s quarter final game as I had expected to be.

In an instant, as many as twenty soldiers surrounded them.

‘I don’t think I could ever be as brave as you.’

as (conjunction)—expressing that something takes place during the time that another thing also takes place; to show a difference in how something is done; to add a comment or phrase relating to a fact; since, because; even though

The clouds drift by as I sit and read.

I picked ‘tails’ in the coin toss as per usual.

As you can see, this longa-donga plant does pretty well.

‘And here I must interrupt you, sir, as my car is waiting outside.’

‘Yes, well, kind as your offer is, I must decline.’

as (preposition)—used to express the function of something; during the time mentioned

His death came as a shock to us all.

I was rather sporty as a child.

Both like and as have a long list of sayings and phrases attributed to them too, such as ‘like so’, ‘and the like’, ‘more like’, ‘as and when’, ‘as if’ and ‘as it were’.

So, as you can see, while both like and as may share the same spot in a sentence, their meanings do not overlap and one should not be used as an alternative to the other.

Like, happy writing and whatever. I’m going to, like, get an early night so I can, like, get up really early to watch the World Cup and, like, yeah. (Sorry!)

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