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Comma before “like” — A Comprehensive Guide

Comma before “like” — A Comprehensive Guide

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Words having multiple meanings never fail to make most, if not all, language learners scratch their heads.

To make the scalp bleed a bit, we can also combine the intricacies behind the punctuation system, especially the notorious comma.

Well, luckily enough, today’s post will help you get rid of that seborrheic dermatitis. You know, dandruff.

Read on to know more about how to punctuate the word “like” with a pre-comma properly.


When should we place a comma before “like”?

“Like” is punctuated with a pre-comma when it is used as a filler word, used after an introductory expression, introduces a parenthetical remark midway or at the end of the sentence, as well as when it appears after a mid-sentence parenthetical interruption. Whereas, no comma should come before “like” when it is used as a verb, preposition, conjunction, noun, and adjective in a non-parenthetical nor serial manner.


Defining the word “like”

Albeit superficially easy to understand, the word “like” contains several meanings, and it also belongs to several parts of speech.

Determining its denotative meaning is dependent on how it is used within a sentence, and knowing how it functions would help us in our comma decision.

Here are the different faces of “like” together with some examples.

Comma Rules Cheat Sheet


The verb “like”

“To like someone” means to be fond of the person, while “to like something” means to want a certain object.

April and Beth like Kpop stars.

In the sentence above, the subjects are fond of the performers mentioned, which means they idolize this group of people.

However, the object in the context of the next sentence, the meaning of “like” means “to want.” 

They would like to have some coffee.


The preposition “like”

“Like” can also function as a preposition similar to “as” in one sense and similar to “for example” or “such as” in another.

To know whether “like” is functions as a preposition, we have to check the subsequent word which needs to be a noun or a noun phrase.

Here’s how to use “like” to mean “as.”

She looks like a carrot in that dress.

And, here’s how to use “like” to mean “for example” or “such as.”

Words like “get” and “have” can be confusing.


The conjunction “like”

The conjunctive sense of “like” is similar to “as” or “as if” but followed by a clause rather than a noun or noun phrase.

Here’s how to use that.

It seems like I just gave birth to him yesterday.


The adverb “like”

Interestingly, we can also use “like” as an adverb as a filler word when we can’t get hold of the right term easily, especially in the informal, spoken language.

I can’t believe how Aubrey was, like, so unbothered by the smell.

Or, we can also use it to casually report a speech used by another person to pass on some information to a hearer or reader.

And he went like “What on earth have you done to your hair?!”


The noun “like”

As a noun, “like” also means anything that may be considered as a preference.

Everyone has likes and dislikes.

In the digital age, the nominal sense of the word “like” has become a form of a social validation tool.

This photo has only got one like.

Or, it could also mean “similar items or things,” which is also one way to read the abbreviation “etc.”

The city discourages throwing non-biodegradable items, such as plastic bottles, tin cans, disposable utensils, and the like


The adjective “like”

The adjectival sense of “like” also denotes the meaning “the same” or “similar to,” but it is used in front of a noun.

As expected, she disobeyed her parents in like manner.

The complete phrase “in like manner” is similar to the adverb “similarly” or “in the same way.”

Comma Before Like


Cases in which a comma before “like” is necessary

We normally have to use commas when we talk about word series, but there are several other considerations apart from that.

When in doubt, the default analysis on whether or not a comma should be placed is to check how essential the word, phrase, or clause is in a sentence.

Of course, these explanations are insufficient in illustrating how commas work, so here’s a list of conditions that guide the pre-comma placement to the word “like.”


When like is used as a filler word

Filler words are grammatically-inessential sentence elements because they do not contain meaning most of the time.

When used as a filler word, a comma should be placed before “like,” as well as after it.

And, as much as possible, we have to avoid using filler words in writing, so that we can do away with unconsciously using them during formal correspondence.

Here’s an example of using “like” as a filler word.

Hey, that’s really, like, unbelievable!


When “like” comes after a sentence’s introduction

Introductory elements are used to provide an initial context to the reader or connect a previously mentioned idea.

All introductory expressions are offset with a comma before the main idea comes in.

So, a comma should come before “like” when it comes after an introductory expression, regardless of the part of speech it belongs to.

As a result, like what happened before, her request has been rejected.


When “like” introduces a parenthesis or non-restrictive information

A parenthesis is a syntactically non-restrictive remark added to create emphasis, clarification, or opinion.

Parenthetical remarks are set off with commas to mark their grammatical removability in a sentence.

The commas also help in creating prosody or rhythm that guides the reader in knowing that the information should be read with emphasis.

Again, inessential sentence elements are to be set off with commas, and therefore, a similar idea applies to the word “like” when it introduces parenthetical information.

Here’s a mid-sentence parenthesis.

He can’t easily forgive and forget, like his dad, and that’s why he isn’t responding to your texts.

And, here’s a sentence-final parenthesis.

This perfume smells so good that it has always been the best-seller, like real jasmine in bloom.


When “like” is used after a parenthesis or non-restrictive information

Now that we know that we can insert parenthetical remarks either midway or at the end of a sentence, this condition shouldn’t be a hard nut to crack.

Since a mid-sentence parenthesis ends with a comma, the same comma should also precede “like” whenever it comes after a parenthetical remark.

Here’s an example to represent the explanation.

As you can see, they get along pretty well these days, which is great, like coffee and cream.


When is a comma before “like” incorrect?

Now that we have enumerated the guidelines on pre-comma usage, let’s also look at the conditions guiding the incorrect comma placement.

In all of the cases below, the idea is that the word “like” is essential to the holistic meaning of the sentence it belongs to.

Hence, no comma should be found before it.


When “like” is non-serially and non-parenthetically used as a verb

The verb “like” is often used in conveying a feeling of fondness, preference, want, or wish.

Apparently, we have to make sure that “like” isn’t used in series nor parenthesis to meet this condition.

Placing a comma before “like” is grammatically incorrect in the sentence below.

I like spending lazy hours by the beach.


When “like” is non-serially and non-parenthetically used as a preposition

Another condition is when “like” functions as a preposition that denotes the meaning “similar to.”

Again, a comma becomes incorrect when the preposition “like” is an essential element in the sentence.

And thus, removing the prepositional phrase would make the sentence problematic or ambiguous.

She really looks like Amy Schumer.


When “like” is non-serially and non-parenthetically used as a conjunction

Using like as a conjunction that connects either a dependent or independent clause also makes the pre-comma placement inappropriate.

In the same vein as earlier, the conjunction “like” should not be used parenthetically, nor serially, to make this condition valid.

It seems like he had been shot point-blank.

We also mentioned paragraphs ago that nonessential remarks can be removed from the sentence without hurting grammaticality, right?

The clause introduced by “like” in the last example is crucial to the meaning of the whole sentence because it only leaves the following information when taken away.

It seems.


When “like” is non-serially and non-parenthetically used as a noun

Nouns can function as subjects or objects in a sentence, and obviously, they can also be serially listed or parenthetically used.

However, if these two conditions are excluded, no comma should come before “like” when it functions as a noun, such as in the example below.

Although he’s got the big C, he still eats processed food, sugary pastries, barbecues, and the like.

Even though placing a comma before “like” would be incorrect in the example above, the comma before the entire phrase “and the like” is optional.


When “like” is non-serially and non-parenthetically used as an adjective

When “like” is used as an adjective that means “similar,” and a noun is to be found afterward.

Using a comma before “like” in its adjectival sense is also wrong, not unless it introduces parenthetical information.

She and her best friend are of like minds.

The other common phrases using “like” as an adjective are “in like manner” and “of like abilities,” and it can also be used in the compounded form as in “like-minded” or “well-liked.”


Frequently Asked Questions about “like” with regards to commas


Should we use a comma before “like” in a simile?

Generally, “like” in similes are not punctuated with a pre-comma as in “He eats like a panda.” “Like” often functions as a preposition in similes, which is an essential sentence element. However, a pre-comma would be necessary if the comparison introduced by “like” is used as a parenthetical remark within the sentence. 


Do we have to place a comma before “like” in a comparison?

The answer depends on whether the comparison is an essential part of the holistic meaning of the sentence. If it is, then a comma should not be placed as in “He drinks alcohol like a camel.” However, a comma would be necessary for the following sentence: “He has always been an alcoholic, and he always drinks too much, like a camel in Saraha.”


When do we need a comma after “like”?

A comma after “like” would be necessary if it is the last word in an introductory expression, the last word in a mid-sentence parenthesis, the last word in a frontal clause in a compound sentence, and the last word in a frontal clause in a reversed-order complex sentence. 



Knowing all the words existing in a language, as well as grammatical rules, is rather a quixotic attempt.

But, word classification and understanding repetitive patterns in the punctuation system are actually feasible.

Writing may not be for everyone, but, after all, good writing skill is key to healthy information sharing and consumption which are necessary for the digital era.