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by Vault Education Editors | February 05, 2010


GMAT Grammar: Such as vs. like

Doesthe GMAT always adhere so strictly to the rules of Standard Written English?  There are many stock phrases in AmericanEnglish that sound fine to the casual ear but just don't pass muster on theGMAT.

Onesuch example is the difference between "like"and "such as": in GMAT Sentence Correction,"such as" is used to introduce examples,while "like" indicates only similarity andcannot be used for examples at all.  Let'stake a look at the following sentences:

  1. Ienjoy playing sports such as football and baseball.
  2. Ienjoy playing sports like football and baseball.

Inthe first sentence, we know that football and baseball are specific examples ofsports the author enjoys.  In the secondsentence, however, all we can glean is that the author enjoys sports that aresimilar to football and baseball (rugby and cricket perhaps?).  Whether either sentence is correct depends onthe context.  If football and baseballare meant as specific examples, sentence two is incorrect because "like"does not introduce examples.

Thisrule is becoming increasingly obsolete in modern American English, but it stillmust be followed in GMAT Sentence Correction problems.

Infact, these days this rule is so nitpicky that even the GMAT writers themselvessometimes abandon it in other GMAT question types!

Sowhat should one do in the presence of such glaring inconsistencies on the GMATitself?  Or, to put the question anotherway: How should one balance the rules of Standard Written English with acceptednorms of spoken English?  Can you evertrust your ear?

Staytuned for Part 2, in which we discuss playing it by ear!

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