Monday, 23 April 2012

"LIKE " versus "SUCH AS"

“Like” Versus “Such As”

Should you write, “Chuck enjoys desserts such as brownies, cheesecake, and macaroons” or “Chuck enjoys desserts like brownies, cheesecake, and macaroons”? Either is acceptable to many grammarians and veteran writers, but let’s look at why using “such as” is better in this instance.

When Should You Use “Such As” Instead of “Like”?

Note that the second example suggests a comparison (like brownies…), whereas the first example implies inclusion (such as brownies…), and that’s precisely what is meant. In other words, many consider likeness as not being the thing itself. When you say “desserts like brownies,” you're implying that you don't enjoy brownies themselves, but instead enjoy a different dessert similar to brownies. It's a subtle difference, but one to be aware of.

Here are a few more examples:

Brad laughs when he hears words such as “flabbergasted,” “rutabaga,” and “hornswoggle.” (The “such as” tells us that “flabbergasted,” “rutabaga,” and “hornswoggle” are included in the list of words that make Brad laugh.)

Characters like Cinderella, Dracula, and Frankenstein continue to appear in movies and novels. (The “like” tells us characters that are comparable to Cinderella, Dracula, and Frankenstein continue to appear in movies and novels.)

Jill would love to travel to several European cities such as London, Florence, and Athens. (The “such as” tells us these are specific cities Jill wants to see.)

Doctor Coughlin dreads seeing patients like Mrs. Carbuncle. (The “like” tells us there are other patients as difficult as Mrs. Carbuncle and Doctor Coughlin doesn't enjoy seeing them either.)

And in the following case, the sentence is OK either way, depending on the intended meaning:

A zombie like Zeke should be small and sneaky.

A zombie such as Zeke should be small and sneaky.

Divided Opinion on “Like” Versus “Such As”

Why do you think there are mixed views regarding the usage of our words in question? Some language experts, such as Patricia O’Connor (the author of Woe Is I), state that “'like' sounds better” because “'such as' has a more formal air” (1). I both disagree and agree with her. To my ear, “such as” sounds better in the sentence about Chuck’s favorite desserts: Chuck enjoys desserts such as brownies, cheesecake, and macaroons. However, I do agree that “such as” does sometimes have a more formal air to it, but I don't find that air stifling.




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