Like or As: Compare These Comparison Words

As if you didn’t know, the words like and as are both, like, extremely common. Both have many different uses, but in this comparison, we’ll be focusing on their use in … comparisons.

In this article, we’ll discuss how like and as are especially known for their use in similes, explain what a simile is, break down how like and as can function in both interchangeable and distinct ways, and provide some examples of how they are typically used in sentences.

Quick Summary

Like and as often serve a very similar function when they’re used to compare things. A comparison that uses like or as is called a simile. Similes typically compare things that have something in common but aren’t otherwise alike. Here are two examples of similes that make the same comparison, one using like and one using as: The moist air made the house feel humid like a rainforest and The moist air made the house feel as humid as a rainforest.

like vs. as

The words like and as are two very versatile words that have many different meanings and uses. They can both be used as several different parts of speech.

But for the purposes of this article, we will be focusing on their use in making comparisons. In this context, like and as are often used very similarly to express that one thing is similar in some way to something else.

In some cases, they can even be used interchangeably.

For example:

  • Your smile is like a sunrise.
  • Your smile is as a sunrise.

However, this particular way of using as isn’t all that common—it sounds literary or even scriptural.

Much, much more commonly, comparisons that use as use it twice, with an adjective (or sometimes an adverb) between.

For example:

  • Your smile is as bright as a sunrise.

This structure is commonly used in many idiomatic expressions.

For example:

  • as clever as a fox
  • as clear as mud
  • as strong as an ox
  • as clear as a bell

Some of these phrases are so familiar that they are sometimes shortened in a way that leaves off the first as, as in Your explanation was clear as mud.

All of these types of comparisons—ones that specifically use like or as—are called similes.

A comparison using like or as

A simile is a figure of speech in which two unrelated things are compared to each other specifically with the use of the words like or as. Similes are very closely associated with the words like and as—they are often simply defined as “comparisons using like or as.”

In similes, like and as function to express that something is similar to something else, rather than directly equating one to the other, as is done in other types of metaphors.

For example:

  • He was a lion among sheep. (metaphor)
  • He was brave like a lion. (simile)
  • He was as brave as a lion. (simile)

Learn more about similes vs. metaphors.

Examples of like and as used in a sentence

Let’s take a look at some of the ways that like and as are used in sentences that make comparisons.

  • Your fingers feel like icicles.
  • She is clever like a fox.
  • Their moves are as fast as lightning.
  • Life is like a marathon, not a sprint.
  • His singing is as water—pure and clear.

What makes something a phrase or a clause? Find out here.

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