Like (verb)

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Like (verb)[edit | edit source]

Like as an English verb that is taught fairly early as students like talking about their likes and dislikes.

Transitive verb[edit | edit source]

Like is a transitive verb, which means it has to take an object. Low level learners may produce the following error:

  • S1: "Do you like football?"
  • S2 *"Yes, I like."

S2 needs to say "Yes, I do" or "Yes, I like it/that/football". But compare:

  • S1 "Do you swim?"
  • S2 "Yes, I swim."

This parses because swim is an intransitive verb, although it may be more common and appropriate to reply "Yes, I do".

The object has to be a noun, a gerund, or an infinitive[edit | edit source]

The object of the verb "like" has to be a noun, or a gerund, or a to-infinitive. However, students often fail to inflect and try to use a bare infinitive instead:

  • "I like playing football" (gerund)
  • "I like to play football" (to-infinitive)
  • "I like football" - (noun)
  • *"I like play football" - (bare infinitive, error)

But note that where the verb and the noun are the same, the processing that produces erroneous sentences above produces parsable sentences, e.g. "I like dance".

The intensifier adverb is really, not very[edit | edit source]

Students often say *"I very like football", when they mean "I really like football" or "I like football very much". See really v. very

Note secondly, "I really don't like" means "I hate", whereas "I don't really like" means "I somewhat dislike."

Like (preposition)[edit | edit source]

The word like in English has two main forms (but several additional ones!); as a verb, and as a preposition. Low level learners usually learn this meaning second, but may confuse the two meanings.

  • What does he like? (verb) - He likes football.
  • What is he like? (preposition) - He is friendly.
  • What does he look like? (preposition) - He is handsome.

There are several problems:

  • Students may answer the wrong question, e.g. "What is he like?" + "He likes football."
  • Students will often confuse the different forms of using be v. auxiliary do, e.g. *"what is he look like?" - or *"What does he like?" (which parses, but has the verb meaning.)
  • Students will often try to use "like" (prep) in their answers to these questions, e.g. *"He is like friendly".

Students can use like as a preposition without knowing (1) that it is a preposition or (2) even what a preposition is, however even low level learners really ought to know what a verb is(!), so teaching that like can be a verb or "not a verb" might be sufficient for consciousness raising.