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"Like" Versus "Such As"

Are you like Dracula? Do you like movies such as Twilight?

By
Geoff Pope, Writing for
Episode #242

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.

I agree that “such as” sometimes has a more formal air to it, but I don't find that air stifling.

That contrasting view has actually existed for at least a century. For example, in the enduring Dictionary of English usage by H. W. Fowler, we find this line: “Opinion is neatly divided about the merits of 'like' or 'such as'…” (2). What Fowler then points out about these distinctions is worth noting. He wrote, “The choice is often governed by the meaning: if the sense required is ‘resembling’ then 'like' is preferable. And there is much to be said in favour of 'such as' when more than one example of a class [that is, a group] is mentioned” (3). Here’s a group-related example:

Of our body’s many vital organs, such as the heart, the kidneys, and the liver, people may not know that “The skin is the largest organ in the human body” (4).

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About the Author

Geoff Pope, Writing for Grammar Girl

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