Transition Words (Uses of the Word ‘Like’)
Transition words help connect sentences, making them flow more easily.
The word “like” is a word which causes a lot of confusion for students partly because it is used so often and also because it has so many meanings. Like ‘can be used as a verb or as a preposition as well as an interjection and there are several common expressions with ‘like’ that are easy to confuse with each other.
This use of ‘like’ as a verb is for general preferences. ‘Like’ as a verb is usually followed by the ‘ing’ form of the verb (I like playing tennis), but it can also be followed by the infinitive with ‘to’.
“I like eating ice-cream” means you enjoy the activity and the experience.
“I like to eat vegetables 3 times a day” means that you like the benefits that doing that activity bring you.
What is she like?
‘What … like?’ Is used as an adverb to ask about the appearance or personality of a person or object and is of a general nature. The response should be an adjective or something that describes the kind of person or object it is, ie. “She’s a lovely person, she’s tall and slim”.
What does he look like?
‘Like’ is used as a preposition to talk about someone’s physical appearance. In this case, ‘like’ can also mean ‘similar to’ if you are making comparisons with other people. The answer to the above question could be “She looks like
What would you like to drink?
Another common use of ‘like’ is as ‘would like’ to express desires. It is much more polite to say “I would like” than “I want”. Note that ‘would like’ is followed by the infinitive form of the verb and not by the ‘-ing’ form.
Some animals, like bears, sleep through the winter.
This word means “such as” and is used to give examples of a category that you have just mentioned.
He plays like Tchaikovsky
This is the word used as a preposition to compare two things. It means “similar to” and is usually followed by a noun.
They look like they are having fun.
‘Like’ can be used as a conjunction. It is very similar to the previous usage, but the word ‘like’ is followed by a clause. The above sentence means “They look as if they are having fun”. This use of ‘like’ is very common now, but in the mid-1950s it was a new usage which many people complained about.
I have many likes and dislikes
This use of the word is as a noun, but is not as common as the above uses. It can also refer to the number of times people have clicked the ‘like’ button on a Facebook post or comment.
I was like, ‘hey, how are you?’
“To be like” can also be used in a very informal way to mean that someone said something, or acted in a particular way. You can used it to show someone an action that you did, ie. “I was like [shocked face]”, or to say what sound someone or something made, ie. “The car was like, “vroom!”. This use started in California, America, but has spread to almost every country in the English-speaking world. It is usually used by younger people.
I don’t, like, want to go.
For many young people, it replaces other interjections like “umm” and “err”. It is another very informal use of the word that comes from California and that is used mostly by young people. It is a word that some people use when they are thinking about the next word.
Remember that transition words are important, but they should not be used as word fillers. For example, saying the word “like” too much can be very distracting to the listener!
So, all in all, we have 10 common uses of the word ‘like’. Have you ever used the word in this way or heard native speakers using it like this? Do you think it’s fine to use the last two phrases, or do you think the English language should stay in its traditional form?
Can you name any other popular transition words?