Like vs. Such As – The Difference and When to Use Them

Like vs. Such As

Do you like to try unusual fruit like durian and carambola? Or do you prefer to stick to commonplace fruit such as oranges and bananas?

The English language has some subtleties that can be confusing at times, especially when it comes to comparing things or providing examples.

Two commonly used words are like and such as, but they are used in different contexts. Read on to explore the difference between like vs. such as, and when to use them.

The difference between like and such as

We use like before a noun or pronoun when comparing things or people rather than including them. Such as is used when you are introducing examples of something and when you imply inclusion:

  • Scientists have discovered planets like Earth and Mars in other parts of our galaxy. (Other planets than Earth and Mars)
  • In the solar system, there are many gas giants, such as Jupiter and Saturn. (These two planets are included)

When to use like

1. We often use like before a noun phrase to make a comparison between two things or people that share some similarity:

  • She looks like her mother.
  • You write like him, with the same style and flair.
  • That car is like a rocket!

2. Like can be used to introduce a few examples of something that isn’t necessarily inclusive:

  • He enjoys outdoor activities like hiking and camping.
  • I like to read books on topics like history and science.
  • I prefer to eat healthy foods like fruits and vegetables.

3. If you want to ask someone for an example you can use like:

  • A: I have so many plans for today!
  • B: Like?

Important: You should use an upward intonation in the question “Like?”.

When to use such as

Such as is a phrase that suggests inclusion and is used to introduce specific examples of a general category. It also tends to be more commonly used in formal situations.


  • The store sells many electronics, such as phones, computers, and speakers.
  • Many countries such as Canada have four seasons.
  • We offer a range of benefits to our employees, such as health insurance, retirement plans, and paid time off.

We can also use such as with upward intonation to ask someone to give us some examples, which is considered a more polite alternative to using like:

  • A: There are many countries that you should visit.
  • B: Such as?
  • A: Such as France, Italy, and Egypt.

Do we need to use a comma before like or such as?

Key takeaway: Use a comma before like or such as with a nonrestrictive clause where the meaning of the sentence will not change even when you take the phrase away. Do not use a comma before like or such as with the restrictive clause where the meaning of the sentence will be distorted or it cannot be fully conveyed if you take the phrase away.

Comma before like

Let’s first differentiate a nonrestrictive clause from a restrictive one. Let’s look at a nonrestrictive clause:

  • I have artsy hobbies, like painting and dancing.

If you take away “like painting and dancing”, the sentence will become “I have artsy hobbies”. This sentence still completes the same message because people can still tell what type of hobbies you have.

Now let’s look at a restrictive clause:

  • I have hobbies like painting and dancing.

If you take away “like painting and dancing”, the sentence will become “I have hobbies”. People looking at this sentence would probably ask so what type of hobbies do you have – sporty ones or artsy ones?

When you take away the clause you can no longer convey the full original message and that’s why we call it a restrictive clause.

Comma before such as

Let’s look at another example of a restrictive clause where we don’t use a comma:

  • Meals such as french fries and hamburgers are unhealthy.

When you take away “such as french fries and hamburgers”, the sentence will become “Meals are unhealthy”. However, this is not what you want to say. You are not trying to say that all the meals in the world are not healthy but you’re specifically referring to french fries and hamburgers.

Now, let’s look at a nonrestrictive clause with a comma:

  • I hate unhealthy meals, such as french fries and hamburgers.

If you take away “such as french fries and hamburgers”, the sentence will become “I hate unhealthy meals”. People reading this would still understand that you don’t hate all the food in the world. You hate meals only when they’re unhealthy.

Not to be confused with such as vs like

Such as and like are often used interchangeably, but they have slightly different meanings. Such as introduces specific examples, while like implies a resemblance or similarity.

For example: 

  • She plays sports such as basketball, volleyball, and soccer.  (Specific examples of sports she plays)
  • She plays sports like basketball, volleyball, and soccer.  (Sports that are similar to basketball, volleyball, and soccer)
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