Re: like as a conjunction

Subject: Re: like as a conjunction
From: Amos Jessup <jessup -at- VISICOM -dot- COM>
Date: Wed, 21 Aug 1996 16:26:08 -0700

>"Like" can be used as a conjunction, "Like water for chocolate"!

Yes, and a good point, too. But it was not being used as such in the example I chid (chode?). But my chiding was snotty and off-guidelines and I apologize for that part of it. But "write like you would if he was" is a butchery ne'ertheless.

Here's the venerable American Heritage usage note on the issue:

like 2 (lhk) prep. 1. Possessing the characteristics of; resembling closely; similar to. 2. a. In the typical manner of: It's not like you to take offense. b. In the same way as: lived like royalty. 3. Inclined or disposed to: felt like running away. 4. As if the probability exists for: looks like a bad year for farmers. 5. Such as; for example: saved things like old newspapers and pieces of string. adj. 1. Possessing the same or almost the same characteristics; similar: on this and like occasions. 2. Alike: They are as like as two siblings. 3. Having equivalent value or quality. Usually used in negative sentences: There's nothing like a good night's sleep. adv. 1. In the manner of being; as if. Used as an intensifier of action: worked like hell; ran like crazy. 2. Informal Probably; likely: Like as not she'll change her mind. 3. Non-Standard Used to provide emphasis or a pause: Like let's get going. n. 1. One similar to or like another. Used with the: was subject to coughs, asthma, and the like. 2. Often likes Informal An equivalent or similar person or thing; an equal or match: I've never seen the likes of this before. We'll never see his like again. conj. Usage Problem 1. In the same way that; as: To dance like she does requires great discipline. 2. As if: It looks like we'll finish on time.
[ Middle English from like similar (from Old English gel
hc) (Old Norse lhkr) and from like similarly (from Old English gelhce) (from gelhc similar); See hk- in Indo-European Roots.]
Writers since Chaucer's time have used like as a conjunction, but 19th-century and 20th-century critics have been so vehement in their condemnations of this usage that a writer who uses the construction in formal style risks being accused of illiteracy or worse. Prudence requires The dogs howled as (not like) we expected them to. Like is more acceptably used as a conjunction in informal style with verbs such as feel, look, seem, sound, and taste, as in It looks like we are in for a rough winter. But here too as if is to be preferred in formal writing. There can be no objection to the use of like as a conjunction when the following verb is not expressed, as in He took to politics like a duck to water.

Amos H. Jessup
jessup -at- visicom -dot- com
" imagination in pursuit of excellence".
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