If you’ve hung out with grammar snobs for a long enough time, you’ve probably come across a rule that goes something like: you must use “like” when comparing nouns and “as” when comparing clauses.
Siobhán looks like her big sister Aisling.
It snowed overnight, as I said it would.
This rule is based on the idea that “like” is a preposition and not a conjunction, so it couldn’t possibly connect clauses.
The problem with this rule, however, is that it’s not only a recent invention, but it’s completely made up.
According to Steven Pinker, a Harvard linguist and author, using like to introduce clauses has been around for over 600 years and has been used by several famous authors:
The … use of “like” with a clause was not a recent corruption; the combination has been in use for 600 years. It has been used in literary works by dozens of great writers (including William Shakespeare, Charles Dickens, Mark Twain, HG Wells and William Faulkner) and has flown beneath the radar of the purists themselves, who have inadvertently used it in their own style guides.
So if you’ve always thought that it was okay to say such things as, “You shot your eye out, like I told you would happen”, then fear not: you’re in good company.
Keep in mind, however, that this grammar myth is pretty deep-seated, and your editor may consider it incorrect. Tread carefully.
Was this writing tip helpful?
If you found this writing post helpful, sign up for more writing tips delivered to your inbox. I promise, I won’t email you more than once per month.