Like vs. As: How to Choose Correctly

Butterfly in Maine.Like or as? For English language learners, this is one of the trickier questions.

To choose the correct form, ask yourself: Is it followed by a verb? 

If the answer is yes, use as.

As I mentioned previously, the meeting will begin at 9 am.
It sounded as though she would be late.

In each of these examples, the word as is followed by a subject and verb (I mentioned; she would be). In this context, as is a kind of connecting word called a conjunction, and conjunctions can be followed by verbs.

Like, on the other hand, is not a conjunction. So, in the above examples, as is the only correct choice, right? According to most language guides, it is. However, don’t be surprised if you hear a native speaker, in informal speech or writing, use like followed by a verb – for example, like I said before… or it sounded like she would be late.

In her article on like vs. as, Mignon Fogarty aka Grammar Girl gives a good synopsis of the controversy.

For your purposes, as an English language learner, the safest choice is to use as, not like, before a subject and verb.

Now, back to our original question: Is it followed by a verb? 

If the answer is no, like and as are both possible, but with a difference in meaning.

If there is no verb, just a noun or noun phrase, you want to use a preposition rather than a conjunction. Use like for the meaning similar to, and use as for the meaning same as.

Compare these examples:
You look like your sister. (You look similar to your sister.)
As your sister, I’d like to give you some advice. (This might be said by a woman speaking to her brother; she is his sister, so as, not like, is correct.)
You sound like a teacher! (This might be said to a student who is explaining a grammar point to another student. It only makes sense if the person referred to is not really a teacher.)
It’s up to her, as the teacher, to design the curriculum. (She is the teacher.)

To recap, ask yourself if it’s a conjunction (followed by a subject and verb) or preposition (no verb; only a noun or noun phrase). If it’s a conjunction, use as. If it’s a preposition, ask yourself if the meaning is similar to or same as. If it’s similar to, use like. If it’s same as, use as.

Now you can use like and as with confidence, like a native speaker!



As would be correct here, not like, but I agree with you that as you do sounds stiff and overly formal for a love song. As discussed in the article, using like as a conjunction is so common now in every context except more formal writing that it’s on the way to becoming standard, at least in conversation.


Guys, I’m applying this rule to Ellie Goulding’s “Love Me Like You Do” and “Love Me As You Do” just sounds wrong to me. Is it grammatically correct?


“As I said” is correct: conjunction + subject + verb. “Like I said” is not correct (prepositions should not be followed by subject and verb), but it is common in informal speech.

Ely Zimmerman

“As I said” or “like I said”.
Which sounds like a more educated reference to a prior statement?

Rocco DeRosa

Call me a pedant, but the incorrect use of “like” and “as if” are like nails on a chalkboard to me — as if it is done on purpose.


You’re probably right, especially in spoken English. For English language learners, I still think it’s useful to know the correct forms for more formal writing.

Thomas Black

I fear that the battle of “as if” versus “like” is lost. Even the most educated can be found to commit the grammatical error.

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