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Vocabulary – Like

Uses and meanings of Like

The word like has a very flexible range of uses and meanings. It can be used as a noun, verb, adverb, preposition, conjunction, and quotative.

As a noun

As a noun like has the following meanings:

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  • A person, thing or group similar to the one mentioned. (e.g. She was a great woman; we won’t see her like.)
  • The things that someone enjoys. (e.g. Swimming is one of my likes.)

As a verb

The verb like means:

“to find pleasant or attractive; enjoy.”

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It can be followed by an infinitive or a gerund:

  • I like dancing.
  • I like to be honest.

These two forms often have the same meaning, but sometimes there is a difference.

  • When we use like with an infinitive, it expresses habitual preference, something that the speaker does not necessarily like or enjoy but considers as useful, right or wise ( e.g. I like to see my doctor once a year.)
  • When like is used with the gerund form, the construction tends to mean that we are actually doing the action (e.g. I like listening to music.)

Would like

Would like is used to make polite offers and requests.

  • Would you like some tea?
  • I’d like to see your report.

As a preposition

The word like may be used as a preposition; it can introduce a simile (a stylistic device comparing two dissimilar ideas) as well as non-simile comparisons.

  • He fights like a lion.
  • He swims like fast as a fish.
  • He has a car just like hers

As a conjunction

The word like may replace the subordinating conjunction as or as if. (Some people think it is ‘incorrect’ but you will certainly hear it a lot.)

  • I feel like I am a star.
  • They look like they have been having fun.

Feel like

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Feel like can be used in two different ways:

  • Informally, feel like means to have an inclination or desire for. (e.g. I felt like watching a movie)
  • feel like (oneself) means to sense oneself as being in one’s normal state of health or spirits. (e.g. I just don’t feel like myself today

As an adverbial

Colloquially, like may be used as an adverb in the construction:

be + like + to infinitive,

meaning “be likely to, be ready to, be on the verge of.” here are some examples:

  • He was like to do it again
  • He was like to start all over again.

As a quotative

Like is sometimes used colloquially as a quotative (an expression, such as she said or he goes, that introduces reported speech) to introduce a quotation or impersonation.

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  • He was like, “I’ll be back in five minutes.”
  • She was like, “go out!”
  • I was like [speaker rolls eyes].
  • The car was like, “vroom!”


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