As or Like? – Commonly Confused Words

‘As’ and ‘like’ are commonly confused in English.

Are you using these correctly?

What happened in this cartoon?

The man tried to use the common expression, ‘to work like a dog’, to say that he is working hard. But he used ‘as’ instead of ‘like’. He is saying that he functions, or does the job of being a dog.

It is easy to confuse ‘as’ and ‘like’, especially in this context. Both words can be used to make comparisons, but the structure and meaning is slightly different.

To talk about functions and jobs with ‘as’, we us as + noun (of the function or job).

Some examples are:

As your teacher, I want you to have fun learning. (I am your teacher.)
Camila works as a doctor in the local hospital. (Camila is a doctor.)
Do you use your cell phone as an alarm clock? (Your cell phone functions as an alarm clock.)

If you use ‘like’ instead of ‘as’ with this structure, it means ‘similar to’ or ‘in the same manner’.

Here are some examples:

Like your teacher, I want you to have fun learning. (I am not your teacher, but I also want you to have fun learning.)
Camila works like a doctor in the local hospital. (Camila is not a doctor, but she works in a similar way.)
Do you use your cell phone like an alarm clock? (Your cell phone isn’t an alarm clock, but it functions as one.)

To make comparisons with ‘as’, we use as + adjective + as.

Some examples are:

I am as tall as my sister. (We are of equal height.)
Frank’s house is as big as Karen’s house. (They are of equal size.)
I work as hard as my mother. (We expend equal effort.)

Some common forms of this structure are:

As much as = equal in quantity or degree. Mary likes Juan as much as she likes David.
As long as = on the condition that. I’ll lend you money as long as you promise to repay me tomorrow.
As soon as = at or directly after the time. My dad will call you as soon as he arrives.

Be careful to use the complete as + adjective + as. As + a noun by itself in wrong. It is incorrect to say: I work hard, as my mother.

We can also use as + noun + verb.

From the examples above, you could say:

More casual and modern

I am tall, as my sister is.
Frank’s house is big, as Karen’s house is.
I work hard, as my mother does.

More formal (invert the noun and the verb)

I am tall, as is my sister.
Frank’s house is big, as is Karen’s house.
I work hard, as does my mother.

To make comparisons with ‘like’, we use like + noun.

I am tall, like my sister. (I am tall, and my mother is also tall.)
Frank’s house is big, like Karen’s. (Frank’s house is big, and Karen’s house is big too.)
I work hard, like my mother. (I work hard, and so does my mother.)

Technically, it is incorrect to say ‘I am tall, like my sister is‘. Notice that the formal structure is like + noun, not like + noun + verb. In very formal, traditional English, we would say ‘I am tall, as is my sister.’ However, you will hear like + noun + verb a lot in modern speech.

Let’s look at the ideas side by side:

AS

As a tall person, I stand out. (I am tall.)


As a bird, condors can fly. (Condors can fly because they are birds.)

I am tall, as my sister is.
Frank’s house is big, as Karen’s house is.
I work hard, as my mother does.

I am tall, as my sister.

LIKE

Like a tall person, I stand out. (I am not tall, but I am similar to a tall person in this way.)

The rock flew through the air like a bird. (The rock moved in a manner that was similar to a bird.)

I am tall, like my sister.
Frank’s house is big, like Karen’s.
I work hard, like my mother.

I am tall, like my sister is. (Technically incorrect, but used in informal speech.)

Let’s give it a try.

Luz has started a new job, managing an office. She is meeting with her new staff for the first time. Can you add the correct words to her speech?