You may worry about getting tripped up on the differences between like and such as, just like many people struggle to remember when to use may vs. might. The good news is you don’t need to worry because, although there are rules regarding how to use like and such as, most writers and editors simply ignore them!
In most cases, writers will use the one that sounds more natural. But although many people consider like and such as interchangeable, there are some subtle differences between them that every writer should know.
Here, we’ll explain whether to use like or such as in a sentence, how to remember their differences, and when to use a comma before them.
How to use like
Use like whenever you want to make comparisons or create a frame of reference.
Jane is a big fan of film noir movies like Double Indemnity and The Maltese Falcon.
The above sentence tells us that Jane appreciates film noir movies that are similar to the two examples provided.
An easy way to remember that like is used to make comparisons is to remember that it performs the same function in similes.
Life is like a box of chocolates.
How to use such as
He’s read many of Toni Morrison’s other books such as Sula and Song of Solomon.
The above sentence tells us that these two books have been read by the subject of the sentence.
Such as is also used to clarify information in a statement.
Sophia’s partner does a lot of things that annoy her.
Someone reading or listening to this sentence might respond with “Such as?” because they’re curious about Sophia’s partner’s actions.
Sophia’s partner does a lot of things that annoy her, such as leaving clothing on the floor and hanging up without saying goodbye.
When to use like vs. such as
Use like to make comparisons or create a frame of reference; use such as when you’re listing specific examples.
A good way to remember how to properly use like or such as in a sentence is to remember that like is used in similes; it’s always used to compare something to something else. Such as can also be another way of saying including, since both can be used to list specific examples.
At the end of the day, however, this is one writing rule that you might be excused for breaking. Such as and like have long been used interchangeably—to the point that many writers will go with whatever sounds best, especially if using the “correct” one breaks their sentence’s flow.
That’s not to say you should disregard the rules between like versus such as all the time, but there are many cases when it’s fine.
When to use a comma before like and such as
Commas need to be used before like and such as only if they’re part of a nonrestrictive clause, which adds information to a sentence but doesn’t necessarily change the sentence’s meaning if it’s removed.
Some plants, such as snake plants and aloe vera, prefer more direct sunlight.
They love to watch superhero movies, like Wonder Woman and The Avengers.
Commas don’t need to be used before such as and like if they’re part of restrictive clauses, which add vital information to a sentence that changes the sentence’s meaning.
Foods such as honey and canned beans can last many years in your pantry.
Sasha prefers fast roller coasters like Kingda Ka and Formula Rossa.
Like vs. such as examples
Examples of like:
- He’s a fan of juicy fruits like dragon fruit and watermelon.
- Jacob prefers smaller cities like Pittsburgh and Oakland.
- Paul Bunyan was strong like an ox.
- Large animals like bears and crocodiles don’t make good house pets.
Examples of such as:
- Caine has competed in events such as the Pan American Games and the Olympics.
- She’s won many awards such as the Nobel Peace Prize and the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
- They have many hobbies, such as birdwatching, kayaking, and trail running.
- The construction project had a number of issues, such as onerous permits and weather delays.
Like vs. such as FAQs
What’s the difference between like and such as?
Like is used to make comparisons, while such as is used to list specific examples of something.
How do you use like in a sentence?
Use like to make comparisons or point to a frame of reference, similar to how you would in a simile.
How do you use such as in a sentence?
Use such as when you want to list or name specific examples of something.
When should you use a comma before like and such as?
Commas should be used before like and such as only if they’re part of a nonrestrictive clause, which adds information to a sentence that doesn’t change the sentence’s meaning.