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Do the following two sentences have the same meaning?

They go to school like we do.

They go to school like us.

I know the first one is correct, but I am not sure if the second one is correct too.

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up vote 6 down vote accepted

They both mean that ‘they’ and ‘we’ resemble one another in going to school. In the first sentence, like is a subordinating conjunction. In the second, it’s a preposition. Some people object to the use of like as a conjunction. There are really no grounds for doing so, but if your readers are likely to be among them, then it’s safer to use as if you choose the construction in the first sentence.

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I don't think it's quite that simple. There clearly are grounds for objecting to 'like', (since some people do so) whether you think them sensible or not. And 'They go to school as us' implies impersonation. Myself I would say 'like us' informally, or 'in the same way we do' formally. – TimLymington Feb 29 '12 at 10:57
There are some people who object to anything. That's no reason to pay attention to them, or to consider that "grounds" for objection. – John Lawler Feb 29 '12 at 16:25
@TimLymington: Quite right about the point in your second sentence. Careless drafting on my part and now amended. On the substance, the ever dependable ‘Cambridge Guide to English Usage’ notes that ‘There never was a general principle as to why "like" could not be used conjunctively, and it is now strongly supported by corpus data from around the English-speaking world.' – Barrie England Feb 29 '12 at 16:35
@Barrie: so usage is good evidence when it supports the use of like, but not when it supports objections to it? Cheap shot, I know, but I have never seen the point properly answered. – TimLymington Mar 2 '12 at 12:52
@TimLymington: Usage supports both. The only reason for arguing the case for 'like' is that its conjunctive use is so often questioned. What is the point to be answered? – Barrie England Mar 2 '12 at 13:38

Both of the sample sentences are incorrect. The first should use "as," not "like"--"like" is appropriate with nouns or noun phrases only. For example, "I feel like a winner" is correct, but not, "I feel like I cannot lose." The latter should be, "I feel as though I cannot lose." The second sample sentence should be written as, "They, like us, go to school."

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