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When To Use “Like” or “Such As”

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There’s a subtle but important difference between “like” and “such as.” Read on to find out what it is.

Read this blog to understand the difference between like vs such as.
You can sometimes get away with using these words interchangeably, but if you want to learn the difference, continue reading.
What is the difference between “like” and “such as”?
  • Like suggests comparisons, but isn’t necessarily inclusive. Such as introduces an inclusive set of categories or examples.
    • Thomas enjoys outdoor activities like hiking, kayaking, and bird-watching.
      Thomas has many hobbies, such as painting, writing, and sculpting.
  • The first sentence implies that Thomas enjoys activities that are like hiking, kayaking, and bird-watching (but not necessarily those exact activities) whereas the second sentence implies that his hobbies include painting, writing, and sculpting.

How Do You Use “Like” and “Such As”?

Consider the following sentences:

I’ve watched several movies like Captain America,” “Iron Man,” and “Spider-Man.”
I’ve watched several movies such as Captain America, Iron Man, and “Spider-Man.

Although your audience may not notice it, the use of like and such as changes the meaning of the sentence. Below, we’ll go over when you should use like and when you should use such as.

When To Use “Like”

If you’re making a comparison, then the word you should use is like.

Louie has traveled to several places like New York City, Chicago, and San Francisco.

The sentence above implies that Louie has traveled to several places comparable to or like New York City, Chicago, and San Francisco, but he hasn’t necessarily visited those particular places.

Here’s another example of like in a sentence:

Suzanne enjoys desserts like brownies, cakes, and cookies.

Again, the use of like in this sentence indicates that Suzanne eats desserts that are like brownies, cakes, and cookies but doesn’t necessarily eat those specific desserts.

Because like works when making a comparison, you can often find them in similes:

Jack is strong like an ox.

When To Use “Such As”

Such as implies an inclusive set of categories or examples.

Louie has traveled to several places, such as New York City, Chicago, and San Francisco.

This sentence indicates that Louie has traveled to several places, including New York City, Chicago, and San Francisco.

  • Suzanne enjoys desserts such as brownies, cakes, and cookies.

Similarly, this sentence states that Suzanne enjoys eating desserts, including brownies, cakes, and cookies.

Should You Add a Comma Before “Like” or “Such As”?

Using a comma before like or such as depends on whether the clause is restrictive or nonrestrictive. A restrictive clause adds necessary information to the noun and, if it were to be removed, changes the meaning of the sentence. Restrictive clauses do not need commas; therefore, one isn’t required even if it includes like or such as. For example:

Vegetables such as broccoli and cauliflower are packed with nutrients.
Elizabeth often reads books like “Harry Potter” and “The Hunger Games.

Nonrestrictive clauses add information to a sentence, but don’t necessarily change the meaning if removed. Using like or such as in these types of clauses requires commas.

Some dog breeds, such as French Bulldogs, have short snouts.
She wanted a fun theme, like Balloon Bonanza or Pretty Pirates, for her birthday party.

The Difference Between “Like” and “Such As”

You may get away with swapping out such as with like, but if you want to be as grammatically correct as possible, you should remember the difference between like and such as. Like is used for comparisons and isn’t inclusive, whereas such as is used to introduce categories or examples that are inclusive.

Although your audience may not notice the difference between these two words, they will definitely notice blatant spelling and grammar errors. That’s why it’s a good idea to use LanguageTool as your writing assistant. This multilingual text editor will detect and correct all types of mistakes to ensure that your writing is flawless.

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