The Unlikely Power of Like
Like. We use the word like in nearly every conversation. More recently, since the advent of Facebook, it has even become a physical action. As we scroll through our friends’ timelines and posts, we make sure to click on that familiar icon just to show our friends that we have acknowledged their photo, their current status or even their tasty looking lunch. And, though we may hate to admit it, our self-esteem may even depend on how many of those likes we can gather on our own status updates and photos. Beyond our own egos, businesses large and small, are incredibly dependent on how many likes they can manage.
But, are all likes equal? Or has the simple, four letter, single syllabled word taken on a power of its own?
The answer is, yes. Like has become one of the most used words in the English language. Nearly all conversations will utilize the word at least once but probably more. How is that possible? Well, Like happens to be one of the most flexible words in the dictionary. It has numerous meanings and functions. It can be a verb, noun, adverb, adjective, conjunction and many other parts of speech.
Want to express your preference for something? Use like. Would you like to make a comparison? Use like. Want to give yourself a few moments to remember the right word? Like can do that, too!
If you have the desire to speak like a native English speaker, you will need to study and practice all the functions of like.
Here is a guide to help you.
How you are probably using LIKE
TO EXPRESS THAT YOU ENJOY SOMETHING:
S + LIKE + Noun / Infinitive / Gerund
If you have ever studied English this is surely one of the first verbs you were taught. Simply put, it means you enjoy or prefer something. Like is used as a verb in this context.
I like ice cream.
I like to ride my bike to school.
I like reading on the beach.
TO MAKE AN OFFER OR REQUEST:
Would + S+ LIKE + Noun / Infinitive? or S + Would LIKE + Infinitive
When you want to offer somebody something or make a request for yourself, we can add the modal verb would to the mix and instantly we become very polite. Once again, we are using Like as a verb in this context.
Would you like some sugar in your coffee? (offer)
I would like to speak to the manager, please. (request)
TO MAKE A COMPARISON BETWEEN TWO UNRELATED NOUNS (SIMILE):
S + V / be + LIKE + O
Similes are specific language devices that help us to illustrate a point or idea by making a comparison of two nouns (people, places or things) that are not usually associated with each other. Similes, most commonly referred to as ‘a figure of speech’ help to create mental pictures that help us to better understand the idea put forth. To create a simile you need two nouns, a verb (often the verb ‘be’) and connecting words as or like. In this use, Like is functioning as a preposition.
Last night, I slept like a log. (Here we are comparing my sleep with a log. Totally unrelated but illustrates the idea that I slept very well.)
Her cries were loud like a police siren. (Here we are comparing the sound and volume of her crying with the sound of police sirens. This tells us she must have been very loud).
TO MAKE A COMPARISON BETWEEN TWO THINGS THAT ARE SIMILAR:
S + V + O + LIKE + Noun
This kind of comparison is different to similes because here we are comparing two things that are alike. But, just as in the simile, the like is functioning as a preposition.
They have a car like ours.
I realized that I have grown up to be just like my mother.
TO MAKE AN OBSERVATION BASED ON WHAT YOU SEE, HEAR OR FEEL:
S + V + LIKE + O
When we speak we often make judgements, assumptions or observations about things, situations or people, even though we may not have all the information. When all we have are our senses, we say what things seem, look, feel or sound like. When we do this, we are using like as a subordinating conjunction. We can substitute like with ‘as if’.
I don’t enjoy speaking in front of people because I feel like everyone is judging me.
When we arrived at the party the children were all laughing and shouting. It sounded like they were having a great time!
Even more uses of the word like can be found in the second part of this article.