Given the following sentence:

There were about a dozen of them.

if "like" is used instead of "about", what would be the correct way to write it?

  1. There were, like, a dozen of them.

  2. There were like a dozen of them.

Edit: Assume the speaker isn't pausing because "like" isn't being used as filler. It's being used to convey an approximation.

  • Are you assuming 'like' and 'about/approximately' are close synonyms? Dictionaries can be confusing here. Though RHK Webster's has 'like adv. 12. nearly; approximately: The house is more like 40 years old.', 'like' is far from totally interchangeable with 'about'. Apr 4, 2018 at 11:19
  • 2
    @EdwinAshworth I'm not assuming the two words are interchangeable in every context, but in this context I think they are. As that entry in RHK Webster suggests, you could also substitute "nearly" or "approximately" here to convey the same idea.Thanks for that link too. I checked three dictionaries and none of them had an entry like that. I think this kind of usage for "like" might just be catching on.
    – Rokit
    Apr 4, 2018 at 18:10
  • 1
    If you check for examples of "there were like a dozen", there are very few shown in a Google search (about 20 if you check carefully, including some of dubious origin/ with dubious grammar ["there were like a dozen of baby ducks"]). No commas seems favourite. ODO flags the 'to signify the speaker's uncertainty' usage as 'informal' and, arguably, Collins labels it 'non-standard'. Apr 4, 2018 at 18:19
  • 1
    Punctuation is almost a matter of style, in which there is no right and wrong. Style Guides may give recommendations, but one isn't obliged to follow them, unless is writing to please someone else. May 4, 2018 at 20:59
  • Like, this is Valley Speak, man!
    – Hot Licks
    Apr 7, 2019 at 13:11

2 Answers 2


'Like' isn't an exact replacement for 'about'. The word is admittedly used in a bewildering number of ways, but in this sort of usage, I think there has to be a pragmatic content. So perhaps we could paraphrase as

'There were ... I'd say [...] around a dozen of them'.

'Like' is often used as a bleached conversational filler, merely a variation on '... er ...'.

like ... (PAUSE)

​ used in conversation as a pause or to emphasize an adjective:

He's, like, really friendly – someone you can talk to.

If there's nothing you can do to change the situation, it's like – why bother?

{CED} [note the commas or dash]

So even though using 'like' here quite possibly does include a modal ('I can't say exactly how many') significance,

like [informal]

Used in speech as a meaningless filler or to signify the speaker's uncertainty about an expression [, one usually] just used.

There was this funny smell – sort of dusty like.

I just – you know, I just kind of like mind my own business.


there is also the pause for thought. I'd say this requires the commas.

Dropping the commas strongly suggests to me an archaic ('like' for 'likely', heading for 'were like to be') usage, or an affectation ('like' used merely because it's considered to sound cool).


It would depend on the voice that you are using. If it's in dialogue, consider whether or not the person or character is pausing after saying like. If it's just in normal text, then using a comma sort of makes it come across as a stereotypical teenager, as I can almost imagine someone flipping their hair and checking their phone while saying it.


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