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"Like" and "such as" seem to fit the exact same sentences:

I want a cookie like that

I want a cookie such as that

There are plenty of variations where they differ:

I like cookies

I, like, eat cookies

I use cookies as such: Eat them; bake them; store them.

But the usage I am interested in is when they compare one thing to another. When is it best to use one or the other? Are there different connotations? Other examples:

A friend like you is a treasure / A friend such as you is a treasure

I hate tests like these / I hate tests such as these

No one cares like you / No one cares such as you

The last "such as" seems iffy to me.

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I such as cookies. –  rightfold Apr 11 '11 at 21:28

3 Answers 3

up vote 10 down vote accepted

Both like and such as can be used to introduce examples. This is what's going on in these two sentences that you gave:

A friend like you is a treasure / A friend such as you is a treasure

I hate tests like these / I hate tests such as these

However, such as cannot be used to join two things which are similar---only like can be used in this case:

No one cares like you / *No one cares such as you

In this sentence, the intended meaning is something like No one cares in the way that you do, and only like can be used for this purpose.

Note that I'd put for first example in this category:

I want a cookie like that

? I want a cookie such as that

It seems to me that this means I want a cookie similar to that one, and such as strikes me as ungrammatical to use here.

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"I want a cookie such as that" was originally "I want a girl such as that" but I tend to trim out references to genders during proof. I also thought it sounded odd but figured I would leave it in the hopes someone would point it out and stir up more discussion. :) Your answer is excellent, by the way. For posterity, I usually wait a few days before choosing an answer. The bar has been set; let us see what challengers approach! –  MrHen Apr 11 '11 at 16:44
    
@MrHen, you can always upvote without accepting. –  JSBձոգչ Apr 11 '11 at 17:12
    
@JSBangs: Yes; I sort of wait a bit before adding my opinion/votes on a subject because I obviously do not know what I am talking about or I would not have asked the question. Also, votes tend to be swingy. But yours deserves it, so +1. –  MrHen Apr 11 '11 at 17:42
1  
+1 right answer. @MrHen: Note that some people are very insistent (with little basis in actual usage) that because such as is restricted to examples, like should be restricted to similarities. If you wish to avoid irritating such people you may wish to keep to that rule, all other things being equal, but I certainly wouldn't ever put it above clarity or euphony. –  psmears Apr 11 '11 at 20:07
    
In the cookie example, "such as" scans perfectly fine. The "no one cares" example feels wrong solely because of the elision. "no one cares such as you care" is clunky, but not wrong. –  wnoise Apr 11 '11 at 22:35

I've read something about it when I was looking for some prep for GRE verbal exam:

Like is used to describe something that resembles something else.

He runs like a rabbit.

Such as is used in situations where the object of comparison is certain.

At the zoo I saw animals such as lions and elephants.

Take the last example:

1) At the zoo I saw animals such as lions and elephants.
2) At the zoo I saw animals like lions and elephants.

The first means that I in fact saw lions and elephants whereas the second implies that I saw animals similar to lions and elephants. Maybe tigers and rhinos.

and...

"Writers whom we respect disagree on whether there is any significant difference between like and such as. Wilson Follett and Theodore Bernstein say no. James J. Kilpatrick says yes. We come down gingerly on the side of Kilpatrick. His argument seems valid: 'When we are talking of large, indefinite fields of similarity, like properly may be used. . . . When we are talking about specifically named persons [places or things] . . . included in a small field, we ought to use such as.' In 'Books like this one can help you write better,' like means similar to. In 'Cities such as Atlanta and Birmingham are important to the economy of the Southeast,' the intent is to specify those cities as examples, not merely to put them into a broad category of cities that are important to the economy of the Southeast" (Lederer and Dowis, Sleeping Dogs Don't Lay 79).

it sounds like "let me Google it for you!"
Good luck

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Friendship such as that is not helpful.

Sounds OK to me.

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