Using Casual “Like” For Informal English

Michael Conversational Phrases 2 Comments

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I worked a lot last week. I think I was in the office like, 65 hours all together. So when I got home last night I was like, so tired. I feel asleep on the sofa with my clothes on. When I woke up it was like, 5:00am. My roommate was up as well. He was like, “Why are you up so early?” I explained my situation.

Like is used in a variety of ways in casual, English conversation. Today, I’d like to show you a few examples of how we use like in this way. Have a look at the paragraph above, and then check out this English lesson.

We use like to mean “about.” This like is usually followed by a brief pause.

  • I think the boss is like, 65 years old.
  • It’s like, fifty minutes from NYC to Boston by plane.
  • What a fat dog! It must weight like, 30 pounds!

We also use like before a little, so, or too (etc) + adjective to emphasize and draw the listener’s attention to the adjective. This like is also usually followed by a brief pause.

  • I was like, so tired last night that I fell asleep with my clothes on.
  • Don’t you think the boss is like, too strict with us when we come in late?
  • Is Tom ok? He seems like, a little quite today.

In a similar way, we use like before a verb to draw the listener’s attention to the verb. This like is also usually followed by a brief pause.

  • Don’t you like, love the pizza here! It’s so good.
  • I’m tired. I think I am gonna like, go home and take a nap before dinner.
  • The new salesman in the company like, talks too much.

Lastly, we use was like to mean said or asked when we tell someone about a conversation we had and we want to quote that conversation. Take a look at the following conversation:

I saw Jack yesterday, and it looked like he was in a hurry.

  • Me: “Where are you going?”
  • Jack: “I’m late for work.”
  • Me: “What happened?”
  • Jack: “I overslept.”
  • Me: “Good luck!”

Using reported speech, we can discuss this conversation like this:

I saw Jack yesterday, and it looked like he was in a hurry. I asked him where he was going. He said he was late for work. So when I asked him what happened, he said that he overslept. I said good luck.

Typically, in spoken English, we use the phrase was like followed by the exact words from the conversation or pretty close to the exact words:

I saw Jack yesterday, and it looked like he was in a hurry. I was like, “Where are you going?” He was like, “I’m late for work.” So I was like, “What happened?” and he was like, “I overslept.” So, I was like “good luck!”

Keep in mind that we use was like in informal, spoken English but never in written English.

If you know anyone who might be interested in this English language point, why not help them out! Just share this lesson with them. Thanks for studying today!

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