If someone says that you are "quick" or "efficient" and you want to answer with the following concept "comparison with German engines", what is the best way of replying between this two options:

a) like a German engine

b) German engine like

Are both correct? What are the differences between these two sentences for native speakers?

  • 2
    Both are fine, but (b) should have hyphens to say someone is german-engine-like.
    – Lawrence
    Commented Mar 31, 2017 at 11:16
  • 3
    I personally think that B takes more of a cognitive load than A and the person might just sheepishly smile until they understand your semantics; if ever.
    – MonkeyZeus
    Commented Mar 31, 2017 at 14:59
  • 3
    In spoken English, I only say (b) if I'm talking before even realizing what I want to say. The word "like" is an afterthought.
    – 4castle
    Commented Mar 31, 2017 at 15:29
  • 1
    Avoid (b) as one would avoid a leper with cholera - it sounds awful.
    – Greybeard
    Commented Dec 2, 2022 at 12:19
  • Though b) -might- be used in very informal speech, it is very informal and would be judged badly by any editor/school teacher.
    – Mitch
    Commented Dec 2, 2022 at 14:11

3 Answers 3


The correct response would be Response A. In Response B, you may hyphenate engine and like. The sentence would be like this: It is German engine-like.

However, this makes engine into an adjective; this changes the meaning of the sentence somewhat. The sentence connotation is now that it has similar characteristics to a German engine. Sentence A dictates that whatever you are talking about has the same process as a German engine (therefore, it is likely an engine as well).

This response is used more commonly in speech; Response B is a rather cumbersome way of saying it. I would avoid it entirely.

Anyways, like goes somewhere between the Predicate Adjective and the compared noun. For example:

1.) I am fast like a cheetah.

In the above example, fast (predicate adjective) and cheetah (compared noun) are the connected words. This sentence therefore gives the idea to the reader that I run at the same speed as a cheetah. This sentence is obviously false, and it is what we call figurative language. Another way of saying Sentence 1 is this: 1.) I am as fast as a cheetah.

Like compares two words. Here are some more examples:

2.) You are cool like me. (This means that I am cool, and you are cool)

3.) He is sitting like me. (This means that he is sitting in the same fashion as me)

4.) I am screaming like a girl. (This means that my scream is the same as a girl's scream)

Let me know if you have any questions! (By the way, I am not a native English speaker either; I am German, so I know that you can understand all of this!)

  • Approved the answer from @WS2 since he said that hypens are required, that is reasonable to give correctness to answer B, thanks. Commented Mar 31, 2017 at 11:21
  • @AlejandroMorán Edited. Commented Mar 31, 2017 at 11:34
  • 3
    On the other hand, "I am cheetah-like" wouldn't be toooooo bad. The big problem with "German-engine-like" is that it's so long and clunky. Exactly unlike a German engine! *baddum-tsh* Commented Mar 31, 2017 at 17:04
  • Sentence 4 is quite cisnormative, might I add. Commented Dec 2, 2022 at 13:59

The first is an adverbial phrase qualifying an action e.g. It ran like a German engine. But b) is adjectival (which in pre-position would require hyphens) e.g. One noted the German-engine-like capability of the equipment.

So the answer to your question is that option a is the correct one.

Your reply is short for Yes, I am quick like a German engine.


"Like a German engine" Is correct as is. Answer B would need hyphens ("German-engine-like") to be correct, but in conversation, as @Greybeard says, it sounds very odd.

                        Hope this helps!

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