Tim is a grown-up man who often acts as a child whenever he sees a sports car. Just as his deceased father, Tim has always been fond of fast cars.
Well… do those two sentences above sound weird to you? That’s probably because they are incorrect. They got the word ‘like’ and ‘as’ mixed up.
Like vs. As – What’s The Difference?
Getting like vs. as mixed up is quite a common grammar mistake that people make all the time. Although both words can be used to express ‘in the same way’, they are not always interchangeable.
The word ‘like’ is a preposition, which tells how the subject in the sentence is doing what it’s doing. The word ‘as’ is a conjunction. Its job is to string two clauses together.
When to Use ‘Like’
We use LIKE + Noun / Noun Phrase / Pronoun to compare stuff like this:
The way he growls in his sleep is just like a tiger.
In the sentence above, we’re comparing the way the man growls in his sleep with the sound of a tiger. Here are some more examples:
Like all good boy, Jerry never missed barking at the postman.
You’re such an artist. Just like your father and grandfather.
Why does your face look like the milkman?
When to Use ‘As’
We use AS + Noun / Noun Phrase when we want to say something is acting in the same way as something else. Therefore, if you’re not sure if you should use the word ‘as’ or ‘like’, try replacing the word with ‘the way’.
Here’s an example:
Nobody makes apple pies as mom does.
Nobody makes apple pies the way mom does.
As you can see, inserting ‘the way’ in the place of ‘as’ makes perfect sense. Thus, using ‘as’ is the right choice.
One thing that you should note, especially when you’re about to correct other people’s grammar, is that context matters. Here’s an example:
Martin is acting like a kid.
Martin is playing as a kid.
Which of those sentences is wrong?
One may comment using the first sentence if Martin is an adult who throws a tantrum in public. The second may also be correct if Martin is a voice actor and he’s playing as a child. Both can be correct depending on the context.
To make matters worse, both words are interchangeable in an informal context. So if you’re writing a fiction novel and one of the characters say this:
Nobody drifts like he does.
It’s very much allowed despite being grammatically incorrect.
By the way, if differentiating between like vs. as is difficult for you, you should check all your writing on the online spelling checker. It does not only check for spelling errors but grammar errors too. Quite handy, we say.