like/as though/as if

The word like should never be used before a clause.

Example 1 (incorrect usage): It looks like it will rain.

Like should be used before a noun only, as in the following example:

Example 2 (correct usage): The girl looks like her mother.

Take a close look at the two sentences above. Do you see the difference in how they are used? In the first sentence, like is followed by the clause it will rain. In the second sentence, like is followed by her mother. Whenever a subject and verb follow, remember to substitute like with either as though or as if, as illustrated in the final example below.

Example 3 (correct): It looks as if it will rain.

Posted in Grammar.

If you enjoyed this post, sign up to receive updates by RSS feed or e-mail.


  1. Michael J. Cummings says:

    Your advice:

    Like should only be used before a noun, as in the following example:

    You should have written: “Like should be used only before a noun . . . .

  2. Donal Knight says:

    Thank you for a very simple and concise answer.

  3. Tracy Bloor says:

    What about
    “looks like rain is on its way”
    a common expression.
    Here “like” funcions as a preposition with “rain” a noun (which is grammatically correct) but “is on its way” part of a noun phrase (hence grammatically correct) or is it a subordinate clause (incorrect)?.

    • grammarNewb says:

      Just because a modifier stands directly before something does not necessarily mean it directly modifies that exact something.

      1/ LIKE + NOUN + NOTHING ELSE = like modifying the NOUN

      2/ LIKE + NOUN + SOMETHING ELSE (in this case, “will rain” or “is on its way”) = that SOMETHING ELSE makes all the difference.

      You can’t have LIKE modify the noun and leave a VERB all alone by itself, it makes no structural sense. A Verb needs a Subject to form a clause.

      • grammarNewb says:

        Also, it doesn’t have to be a NOUN, a NOUN PHRASE will also nicely fit in that position; just NOT. A. CLAUSE. (a.k.a Noun/Pronoun + corresponding Verb).

  4. Gerry Puchalski says:

    Of course, many people just say “It looks like rain” which is wrong if the “like it will” is implied, but is grammatically correct since it like is modifying the noun rain. “The dust in the air was so thick it looked like rain.”