Which is correct: “I enjoy sweets like candy, cake, and chocolate,” or “I enjoy sweets such as candy, cake, and chocolate?” Many people, including native English speakers, use “like” and “such as” synonymously, but there is a subtle difference between the two. One implies a comparison, while the other implies an inclusion. Read on for a deep dive into the meanings and uses of “like” and “such as.”
Difference Between “Like” and “Such As”
Both of these adverbs are used to introduce examples and lists in English. “Like” is commonly used to compare things with similar characteristics as a way to describe what you’re talking about:
I want to live somewhere warm, like Hawaii or Florida.
“Such as” is used to talk about specific examples belonging to a group:
Vegetables, such as carrots, green beans, and broccoli, are good for heart health.
Although the two are similar and frequently used interchangeably, they don’t exactly mean the same thing. While “like” makes comparisons that aren’t inclusive, examples listed after “such as” are inclusive to a specific group or category:
I want to do something creative, like paint a picture or write a song.
I want to do something creative, such as paint a picture or write a song.
By using “like,” the first sentence implies that the speaker wants to do something similar to painting or songwriting, but not necessarily one of those two activities. Those activities serve to provide more information about what the speaker means by “something creative.” The “such as” statement includes painting and songwriting in the speaker’s choices, indicating that the speaker is considering actually doing one of those two things
Using Commas With “Like” and “Such As”
If the statement is part of a restrictive clause – or a clause that’s essential to the meaning of the sentence – commas are not necessary:
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The dish includes ingredients such as chicken broth, rice noodles, and bean sprouts.
Emma enjoys activities like hiking, kayaking, and camping.
With nonrestrictive clauses – or clauses that aren’t essential to the meaning of a sentence – use commas before “like” or “such as” and after the last example, if applicable:
Scary movies, such as Halloween or The Shining, are fun to watch alone.
I need to drink something with caffeine, like coffee or tea.
Proofreading and Editing
Hopefully, this guide has given you a clearer understanding of the similarities and differences between “like” and “such as” and how to apply them to your writing. For academics and professionals, laying out examples and making comparisons are essential parts of your work. If you’d like someone to take a look at your writing and ensure proper grammar, spelling, and punctuation, you can send in a free 500-word sample today.