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Why is it not right to say:

He speaks like his father does.

But it’s quite correct to say:

He speaks like his father.

He speaks as his father does.

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    Nobody knows the reason. But nobody cares, either. Native speakers use like normally in colloquial American English, in preference to as, which sounds formal and therefore phony. I.e, whoever told you that like his father does is ungrammatical doesn't know enough about English grammar to be giving advice about it. Commented Aug 31, 2014 at 18:02
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    You are assuming that your assertions about what is and is not right are correct, accurate, and applicable, and then asking people to explain all this to you. The problem is that you have started with a false premise, and therefore no good can come of trying to construct an answer based on a premise that was illegitimate right from the get-go.
    – tchrist
    Commented Aug 31, 2014 at 18:42

1 Answer 1

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Peeves versus Rules

There is no such rule of English grammar. There is only a peeve.

It is not wrong to say that he speaks like his father does. There is no grammatical barrier to saying that, and native speakers have always done so.

The like-versus-as shibboleth is of the same class as fictional “rules” forbidding “split” infinitives, stranded prepositions, or using between for more than two elements.

It’s yet another of those worthless pet peeves dreamt up by the same nattering nabobs of negativity whose prissily invented “rules” get abused to belittle others as being less well-educated than their own august personages. It becomes a class marker.

From the OED

The OED says that using like as a conjunction is something which is

Now generally condemned as vulgar or slovenly, though examples may be found in many recent writers of standing.

The OED then proceeds to cite many authors of both yesterday and today who committed this would-be atrocity. One of these is from Shakespeare’s Pericles of 1608 where Antiochus says:

As thou
Wilt live, fly after: and like an arrow shot
From a well-experienced archer hits the mark
His eye doth level at, so thou ne’er return
Unless thou say ‘Prince Pericles is dead.’

Those who would forbid even the Bard of Avon from using like conjunctively would doubtless swap his like for an as, turning his “like an arrow hits the mark” into “as an arrow hits the mark”. (And heaven help us once they fix their eye on the “stranded” at there at the end of the clause!)

But Shakespeare didn’t have to, and neither do you.

Endless examples of using like to introduce a clause can be readily found from not merely the last century but also before, and this both in common speech and in writers of renown. Things like Like I said or It looks like they’re ready are perfectly normal, natural, and fine; rephrasing them to silence the nattering produces sentences awkward at best.

So for example, consider this line from William Faulkner’s Hamlet:

For a while it looked like I was going to get shut of it.

Doubtless the like-deniers would prefer to see that written:

For a while, it looked as though I were going to be free of it.

But that wasn’t what Faulkner wrote, because it comes off as affected.

Another nice example of using like as a conjunction comes from the Life and Letters of Charles Darwin:

Unfortunately few have observed like you have done.

Other uses of like that annoy the nabobs are those where like is used to introduce a phrase, such as when Washington Irving wrote:

There is more of morning visiting, like in country life in England.

Summary

You appear to have been told not to use like like other people do, and I am sure that you will displease whoever told you this if you violate their “rule”.

So long as you remain subject to some pedant’s lash losing you marks on homework turned in, you must of course do exactly as they say you’re to do and nothing else. But as soon as you’re free of their punishing whip, you should do just like everybody else does — and says.

Do not confuse rules of grammar, such as verbs agreeing with their subjects or object pronouns differing from subject pronouns, with mere peeves of pedantry.

What you have here is a peeve, not a rule. Violating rules renders something ungrammatical; violating peeves merely gives peevers something to rant about.

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    This answer reads like a peev against peeves.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Aug 31, 2014 at 20:50
  • But the peeves are usually indefensible. Commented Aug 31, 2014 at 21:16

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