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by Ms. Tracy Yun, Manhattan Review | March 10, 2009


In this article, we would like to focus on some common errors of which most people are unaware, in particular, on the TOEFL, SAT, GMAT and other standardized tests.

Special care must be taken with the adjective likely. It is often mistaken for an adverb because of its form, but this is not an acceptable usage, for example:

Correct: The Republic is likely to fall.
Wrong: The Republic will likely fall.

Like (used as adjective or preposition)
Like, with its opposite unlike, should be treated as an adjective as well; that is, it must always have a noun to relate to. A predicate is formed with the verb to be:

Life is like a box of chocolates. (Life resembles a box of chocolates.)

Used in the form of a phrase, like will link two nouns (or noun phrases) of the same kind. In this case, like is virtually a preposition, a phrase-maker, and it is categorized so in some grammar books.

Like any politician, he often told half-truths.

Like vs Such As
In the above example, like is used to introduce similarity between two items or persons. This is an accepted usage in Sentence Correction on the GMAT. In other words, like cannot be used to introduce examples or a subset of a category, which should be used following such as.

Correct: I enjoy playing musical instruments such as piano and violin.
Wrong: I enjoy playing musical instruments like piano and violin.

In sum, on the GMAT, use like before a noun or pronoun when emphasizing similar characteristics between two persons, groups or things. Use such as before a noun or phrase when introducing examples.

Like vs. As/As If/As though
Use like before a noun or pronoun. Use as before a clause, adverb or prepositional phrase. Use as if and as though before a clause. Like is generally used as a preposition in such a context. As is generally used as a conjunction of manner while sometimes serving as a preposition with the meaning of "in the capacity of". As you can tell, the focus of the comparison shifts from the noun when used with like to the verb when used with as, as if, or as though.

My mother's cheesecake tastes like glue.
I love frozen pizza because there is no other snack like it.
My mother's cheesecake tastes great, as a mother's cheesecake should.
There are times, as now, that learning grammar becomes important.
He golfed well again, as in the tournament last year.
He served as captain in the navy.
He often told half-truths, as any politician would.
He looks as if he knows me.
It looked as if a storm were on the way.
He yelled at me as though it were my fault.

The same rule applies when you use the expressions seem like and look like.

He seemed like a nice guy at first.
That looks like a very tasty cake.

Wrong: It seemed like he liked me.
Correct: It seemed as if he liked me.
Here the comparison is with a clause, not a noun.

To master all these grammatical finer-points quickly and effectively, learn from our expert instructors real-time!

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