It’s “as if” not “like” – a Grammar Nazi’s grumble

After a wonderful holiday, all my batteries are fully charged, including the powerful Inner Grammar Nazi.

I enjoy activity holidays as much as anybody. My chosen activities are sitting and reading, interrupted by gentle strolls and leisurely meals.

Over the last two weeks I’ve read six books.  They were all good reads, otherwise I wouldn’t have finished them, but several were marred by a most irritating and increasingly frequent grammatical error, and that is the incorrect use of ‘like’ and ‘as if’, which makes me want to stamp my feet and smack the writer over the knuckles with a ruler. Does anybody else feel the same or am I being over-sensitive?

In simple terms, it’s “like” before a noun, “as if” before a clause.

“He looked like a monkey.”  “He looked as if a monkey had cut his hair.”

“It looked like chocolate.”  “It looked as if the chocolate had melted.”

“She looked like a million dollars.” “She looked as if she’d won a million dollars.”

Nobody would write “He looked as if a monkey.” or “It looked as if chocolate.” Would they?

So why do people get it wrong? Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr












13 thoughts on “It’s “as if” not “like” – a Grammar Nazi’s grumble

  1. I suppose it comes from the spoken word in the Present Tense. You wouldn’t say “It looks as if the chocolate’s melted”. You say “It looks like the chocolate’s melted”.

    Similarly, you would say “She looks like she’s won a million dollars” because “She looks as if she’s won a million dollars” is just bizarre when spoken.

    Kindle books are full of horrifying grammar. I always avoid books that have reviews which highlight exceptionally bad editing. It’s too painful to read such books. 🙂

    • We’ll have to agree to differ on that one, Sarah. I *rigidly* use ‘as if’ when speaking. When I hear people saying ‘like’ when correctly it would be ‘as if’, it sounds just as wrong as when it’s written. 🙂

  2. In the instances that you point out, where the grammar problem has nothing to do with spelling, I say it is not an error. It is an example of how the character speaks, or at least thinks.
    If the writing is set in the real world (or a close assimilation thereof), why would people speak more properly than they actually do in real life?
    I’m not saying it’s not annoying, but the practice is more of a reflection on the lives of those kindle-authors.

    • Thanks for your comment. In the instances I mentioned, none of the books were fluffy novels, and the misuse was not in dialogue, it was in descriptive text. That’s what gets me. In dialogue the character can speak any way they wish, but I think writers ought to know how to use English grammar correctly in ‘serious’ books. 🙂

  3. I’m a pedant myself.
    Cannot stand the “should of” instead of “should have” which is often used by TV reporters and national journalists. Grrrr!
    I also get very worked up by, again TV reporters, using American pronunciation. “Controversy” is an outstanding one.
    I just thought it was me becoming even more of a grumpy old man.

    • Yes, that’s another common one, Pip, the ‘of’ ‘have’ misuse. But it’s so common now that I hardly notice it any more. And don’t get me going on ‘American English’. You’re not alone in your grumpiness. 😀

  4. It’s a terrible affliction put upon us isn’t, being grammar Nazis? Often the whole flow of what I’m reading is totally spoiled by some ill-written words that I just can’t shove out of my mind. I can’t concentrate on the story because something glaring is STARING me in the face. “Pip” above listed one of the most annoying, “should of.” I HATE split infinitives, too!

    • Thank you, Alison, for your kind comment. But starting a sentence with a conjunction is generally frowned upon. 😀 Of course, it isn’t a sentence, is it, because there’s no verb. 😀 😀 😀

  5. Oh, yes!
    I know that the Grauniad was infamous – once it moved to London – but now I start to read an article in the any of the main press sites and find nothing but errors of spelling and grammar…
    Makes me spit!

  6. Of course you’re not alone! (whenever were you?) It drives me crazy when I spot it in a book. I usually email the publisher for this and other grammatical, punctuation and spelling errors.

    I don’t blame the author as much as I blame the editors and proof readers. I’m not an expert, but they’re paid to be. If I can spot them it means they’ve been lazy, negligent, or both.

    If you want all your gripes confirmed as genuine read “The Banned List” by John Rentoul. Bought it yesterday and have read it already. It’s stopped me feeling like an overly sensitive dick.

    • Hi Andy – good to hear from you.

      You’re certainly right about the editors/proof readers; how on earth do they let such beasts escape?

      I know that the rules of grammar have changed over the years, and continue to change. (Who first invented those rules, by the way?) And I’m all for breaking them, but incorrect usage really is irritating. Particularly “should of” instead of “should have”. I see the “like” versus “as if” situation as being partly caused by “American English”, because it’s very prevalent in American literature, as well as things such as “he jumped out the window”. I suppose it’s going to keep going that way as we become subsumed into American culture.

      Do you ever get a reply from the publishers?

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