It can be confusing to know when to use like vs. as in a sentence, but some simple tips can help. The key is understanding how each word functions so you can choose the correct one for your situation.
Like vs. As: Uses and Differences Made Easy
Like vs. As: Different Roles
Although they both compare two or more things, like and as are different parts of speech. Understanding this is the key to using them correctly.
Like Is a Preposition
Like is a preposition. This means its job is to show the relationship between two nouns or pronouns in a sentence. In the case of like, that relationship is a similarity. There are rules for using prepositions, and these apply to like. Most importantly, you must be comparing two nouns. You can see how to use like in the following examples:
- That kitten is like its mother.
- Like a tornado, the two year old destroyed the tidy bedroom.
- Many people think children are like their parents.
- This uncomfortable bed is like a rock.
As Is a Conjunction
In contrast, as is used as a conjunction when it compares two things. Its job is to join these two things together. These examples will show you how to use as:
- The car brakes screeched as if they were protesting the sudden change in plans.
- No one makes cookies as she does.
- The car doesn’t run as it used to.
- I live five miles from here as the crow flies.
Two Real-World Tips for Using Like vs. As
Don’t worry if you still feel confused. These real-world tips will have you using like and as correctly in every situation.
Try Replacing It With “the Way”
In many situations, you can replace as with the way. If this works, you know as is the correct choice. If not, the correct word might be like.
Incorrect: No one looks like they did 20 years ago.
Check: Check with the way: No one looks the way they did 20 years ago.
Correct: No one looks as they did 20 years ago.
Check if You’re Comparing Two Nouns or Pronouns
Remember, like compares two nouns or pronouns. This is an easy way to make sure you’re using it correctly for a comparison. Take a moment to diagram your sentence or identify the parts of speech you’re using. If it’s two nouns, you should use like. If it’s a noun and something else, as is likely the right choice.
Correct: Her friends (noun) surround her like satellites (noun) around a planet.
Check: Here, her friends are being compared to satellites. Both are nouns, so like is the correct choice. However, if you compare the verbs instead, the correct choice becomes as.
Correct: Her friends surround (verb) her as satellites orbit (verb) a planet.
Use Like and As Correctly and Creatively
If you want to see more use of using like or as, check out examples of similes. A simile is a literary device that makes a direct comparison between two things, often creating vivid imagery. Learning to use like and as correctly can help use this form of expression.