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This one never ceases to confuse me. When to use 'such as' and when to use 'like' while giving examples? Is there any clear rule?

  • Metros like Mumbai, Delhi and Karachi are unsafe after dark.
  • Metros such as Mumbai, Delhi and Karachi are unsafe after dark.

(Before anyone points out, Delhi and Karachi are unsafe round-the-clock, but it's just an example.)

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2 Answers 2

Such as is preferable in formal prose, because it avoids the ambiguity that might be present with like. In your first sentence, a reader might briefly think that like was a verb. ‘The Cambridge Guide to English Usage’ puts it this way:

The argument for such as was that it prevented the ambiguity that might sometimes beset like (though the case seems to have been exaggerated). Yet this concern probably explains why such as is more than a thousand times commoner in academic writing than in speech. Such as is also found in fiction and news writing, but much less often. These facts of usage make such as more formal and academic in style, whereas like is straightforward and direct.

I’m not familiar, by the way, with this use of metro.

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1  
My first thought was that it was metro in the rapid transit sense, so "...such as those in..." would be logical. On re-reading I realise that this is the adjectival sense of metro, so equivalent to "metro area". I have a feeling this use of an adjective to mean an adjective qualifying a vague noun (for which I'm sure you know the term, it escapes me), is common in Indian English. Wikipedia has this meaning listed by the way - I don't know of any decent online dictionaries for Indian English. –  Chris H Oct 4 '13 at 11:13
    
I guessed it was an Indian usage. Perhaps the OP can tell us. –  Barrie England Oct 4 '13 at 12:38
1  
It's an Indianism Barrie. I meant metro area or metro city, of course. I like your explanation, but don't quite agree. What I mean is, 'It'd be great to have players like (of the caliber of) Don Bradman, Kapil Dev and Steve Waugh among the current crop of cricketers' doesn't quite mean the same as 'It'd be great to have players such as (they themselves in flesh and blood) Don Bradman, Kapil Dev and Steve Waugh... –  user52023 Oct 4 '13 at 13:20
    
The OED’s definition 9d of ‘such’ is: ‘Hence “such as” is used to introduce examples of a class: = for example, e.g.’ –  Barrie England Oct 4 '13 at 13:41

"Like" is more informal and commonly used to emulate the spoken language, while "such as" is better to be used in the written language because it is more formal.

Furthermore, "such as" is more indicated to introduce a list of elements at least three elements that have something in common, i.e.:

I've always loved chocolate cakes such as Sacher torte, Red Velvet and fudge cake!

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What on Earth is a "saker torte"? Or do you mean Sacher? –  RegDwigнt Oct 4 '13 at 10:05
    
Oh...yes it must be Sacher, I didn't know the spelling...indeed, this was not the point of the comment. –  MerlinTheWizard91 Oct 4 '13 at 10:13
    
I always loved electric cars such as the one currently produced by Tesla - Only one element here –  mplungjan Oct 4 '13 at 11:52

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