Thursday, August 29, 2013

What's wrong with this song title?

What's wrong with this song title:  You Make Me Feel Like I've Been Locked Out Of Heaven?

If you're a word nerd like me, the answer should jump out at you.  The usage of 'Like' is wrong.  It should be You Make Me Feel As If I've Been Locked Out Of Heaven. We don't expect song writers to have perfect English. In fact, they often intentionally use incorrect English in order to play with the words or sound folksy.  We do expect writers and editors to have perfect English, however.

If you're one of the countless people who have wrongly used like and as if, don't feel stupid.  Many otherwise competent writers of English make this mistake. Yours truly has made that error himself.  It's what I call a word trap and there are many in the English language.

Determining the correct usage is actually quite simple. Like is a preposition while as is a conjunction.  The correct use of like is when a noun or object follows.  He ran like a sprinter.  As should be used directly in front of a verb or clause.  He ran as if he were a sprinter.

That's all you need to know.  Using the correct word is not hard at all once you know the rule and it will allow you to avoid a lot of embarrassing mistakes.




  1. Here's a trickier question--what about in dialogue? The conjunctive usage of "like" has become so common, "as if" might sound unnaturally stuffy coming out of some characters' mouths.

  2. Good point. My view is you can get away with practically anything if you call it dialogue. Don't confuse the two if you're writing your master's thesis, however.

  3. I was pleased I knew what was wrong with the title. I agree with S D Keeling, dialogue hides a multitude of sins.

  4. The word "like" is overused. I blame Nic Cage. :) And a good grammar rule is a useful tool. Thanks Chuck!

  5. Great call out, Chuck. We use that word and don't even realize it's wrong. Actually, with way 'like' and 'as if' are used colloquially today, we'll soon lose, like, all distinction. But of course, English teachers won't--as if! ;) Thanks for the neat post.

  6. if i could learn all the rules of the english language, which still make no sense to me... i'd be a prefect writer lol. i did find you and i shall be following