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Is there any difference between putting a comma or omitting it when you say "like" in a list?

For example, in the phrase "While I was visiting the zoo, I saw many different animals, like zebras, giraffes, and more.

Is there a difference if you remove the comma before like, or is it a matter of choice?

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  • like (and equivalents like such as, for example,...) isn't "in" the list - it precedes the list. Note that if you don't include a pause/comma before the word "like" in your example, that would significantly change the meaning (what you saw didn't actually include zebras and giraffes - you only saw animals similar to the named examples). Apr 28 '20 at 16:59
  • If you remove the comma, it becomes a verb. It means that you saw many different animals engaged in being fond of zebras  … (I saw many different animals eat zebras. I saw many different animals hurt zebras. I saw many different like [verb] zebras. Apr 28 '20 at 21:23
  • The comma indicates that it's a "parenthetical".
    – Hot Licks
    Oct 2 '20 at 0:42
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From what I've learned in my time at school/From my personal experience, you are correct to put a comma before "like" in the sentence you used as an example. Yes, in your example, there is a difference if you were to remove that comma.

Your example (WITH comma): "While I was visiting the zoo, I saw many different animals, like zebras, giraffes, and more."

Your example (WITHOUT comma): "While I was visiting the zoo, I saw many different animals like zebras, giraffes, and more."

Without the comma before "like," it would mean that the zebras, giraffes, and more draw attention from the many different animals, or it would mean that the many different animals are pleased with the zebras, giraffes, and more.

I'm unable to come up with an example that contradicts this because I struggle with making stuff up, and I'm on a tight schedule. If someone else can come up with an opposing example, that would be great.

I wish you good fortune and good health.

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