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Ask a Teacher: Like or Alike?


Ask a Teacher: Like or Alike?
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Have you ever wanted to talk about similarities between people or things but were unsure what words to use? Today’s question comes from Nagim of Israel.

Question:

Hello from Israel. How can we use “alike” and “like”? These two words are very difficult for me. - Nagim, Israel

Answer:

Hello, Nagim, and thanks for asking a teacher!

The words “alike” and “like” are easy to confuse. We use both to show similarities between people or things. They also sound alike.

Did you see how I used the word “alike”? I used it as an adverb.

“Alike” can be an adverb or an adjective.

Alike: adverb

As an adverb, it means “in a similar way.” We use it after an action verb – a verb that expresses physical or mental action. Here is an example that is also a popular expression:

Great minds think alike.

It means that very intelligent people have the same ideas at the same time.

Here’s another:

Teens sometimes try to dress alike.

One other meaning for the adverb "alike" is “both.” We use it to talk about two individual people or things or two groups of people or things:

Students and teachers alike can listen to Ask a Teacher.

For this meaning, notice that the word “alike” comes after the two groups – students and teachers.

Alike: adjective

As an adjective, “alike” means “similar in appearance, nature or form.” We use it after linking verbs, such as “be,” “look” and “sound.”

Let’s hear some examples.

You and your brother are so much alike!

Those sports cars look alike. They’re the same shape and color.

My mom and I sound alike on the phone.

Like: preposition

Now, let’s talk about “like.” The main meaning we are talking about today is as a preposition. It means “similar to” and comes before a noun or pronoun object. Here are some examples:

You are just like your brother.

This sports car looks a lot like that one.

I sound like my mom on the phone.

We can use the preposition “like” for all five senses.

Like: conjunction

The use of "like" that often confuses English learners is the conjunction. When a conjunction, “like” means “as if” or “as though” and is informal. Here’s how that sounds:

The plane felt like it was going to crash!

It means that the plane felt as if it were going to crash. There was probably a lot of turbulence, for example.

But, avoid this use in formal writing.

And that’s Ask a Teacher.

I’m Alice Bryant.

Do you know people who look, talk, act or think alike? How are they like one another? You can use today's words to tell us about it.

Or, do you have a question for Ask a Teacher? Write to us in the Comments area.

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Words in This Story

teenn. someone who is between 13 and 19 years old

linking verbn. a verb that connects a subject with an adjective or noun that describes or identifies the subject

sensen. one of the five natural powers (touch, taste, smell, sight, and hearing) through which you receive information about the world around you

conjunctionn. a word that joins together sentences, clauses, phrases, or words

informaladj. not suited for serious or official speech and writing

turbulencen. sudden, violent movements of air or water

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