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  1. #1
    birdeen's call is offline VIP Member
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    "like" to mean "as if"

    Native speakers often use "like" in sentences like:

    Wave you hands in the air like you just don't care.
    Oh, fine, like I care!

    Is it considered good English? I guess using subjunctive in those "like" clauses would be hypercorrect?

  2. #2
    TheParser is offline VIP Member
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    Re: "like" to mean "as if"

    Quote Originally Posted by birdeen's call View Post
    Native speakers often use "like" in sentences like:

    Wave you hands in the air like you just don't care.
    Oh, fine, like I care!

    Is it considered good English? I guess using subjunctive in those "like" clauses would be hypercorrect?
    ********** NOT A TEACHER **********

    Hello, Birdeen's Call.

    (1) I believe that you are 100% correct: most Americans probably

    use like instead of as if.

    (2) Since so many people use it, I guess that we may call it

    good English.

    (3) Nevertheless, if you are doing university-level writing, you

    might want to use as if.

    (4) I think that your sentence in perfect English should be:

    Wave your hands in the air as if you just didn't care.

    (a) My books tell me that as if is a short way to say:

    Wave your hands in the air as [you would wave them] if you

    didn't care.

    Thank you

  3. #3
    birdeen's call is offline VIP Member
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    Re: "like" to mean "as if"

    Thank you. And how about:

    wave your hands in the air like you just didn't care?

    Not that I ever heard it, but I'm wondering if it's possible.

  4. #4
    TheParser is offline VIP Member
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    Re: "like" to mean "as if"

    Quote Originally Posted by birdeen's call View Post
    Thank you. And how about:

    wave your hands in the air like you just didn't care?

    Not that I ever heard it, but I'm wondering if it's possible.
    ********** NOT A TEACHER **********

    Hello, Birdeen's Call.

    (1) Thank you for your note.

    (2) Hopefully, a teacher will soon answer you.

    (3) As I type, none has. So may I offer these views:

    (a) Wave your hands in the air like you don't care. =

    Very popular conversational English.

    (b) Wave your hands in the air as if you didn't (subjunctive) care. =

    Formal English.

    (c) Wave your hands like you didn't care. = a combination of

    (a) and (b). Is this "good" English? I do not know. Maybe it is better

    to choose either the informal or formal version if you want to be sure.

    (4) Hopefully, one of the teachers will soon answer you. If they don't,

    just post a similar question using like and as if.

    Thank you

  5. #5
    birdeen's call is offline VIP Member
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    Re: "like" to mean "as if"

    Thank you for your kind reply. It's not of great importance, so I will just wait patiently Have a nice day!

  6. #6
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    Re: "like" to mean "as if"

    Quote Originally Posted by birdeen's call View Post
    Thank you for your kind reply. It's not of great importance, so I will just wait patiently Have a nice day!
    No, it is a very important question. You need not wait for a "teacher." The Parser is a teacher to us all and has done a characteristically clear and elegant job of explaining the nuances of this little grammatical conundrum. I try to get my students to use "as if" in their writing, but it is has become increasingly difficult.

    Having said that, I would differ with our Parser on this one little point. It seems to me that you can get away with the present tense in your sentence:
    Wave you hands in the air as if you just don't care.

    I would only use "did" if you were making the point that the person really does care but is acting differently. (Perhaps that is indeed the situation here; it isn't so clear to me.)

    As for the following sentence, it is clearly colloquial. You would (unfortunately) hear it routinely in spoken English, at least in the USA.
    Oh, fine, like I care!

    As always, I would enjoy getting The Parser's further comments on this.

  7. #7
    birdeen's call is offline VIP Member
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    Re: "like" to mean "as if"

    Oh, I didn't want to diminish TheParser's explanation! I just said I wanted to wait for an answer for the one question TheParser didn't answer.

    I must say I'm astonished by what you say. I've never seen "as if" with the present tense. Do you have any further reading for me on this topic? For me, it's hypothetical no matter what. It would be an interesting thing to learn.

    What I dubbed "of little importance" is the question of a clause starting with "like" and kept in the past (subjunctive). Could you refer to it?

  8. #8
    bertietheblue is offline Senior Member
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    Re: "like" to mean "as if"

    Is 'wave your hands in the air like you didn't care' an example of the use of the past in the present (or attitudinal past), which is sometimes used as a more polite form than the present tense, eg 'Did you want a cup of tea?' v 'Do you want a cup of tea?'? If so, I don't see the politeness in 'wave your hands in the air like you didn't care', so can the attitudinal past have other functions?

  9. #9
    birdeen's call is offline VIP Member
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    Re: "like" to mean "as if"

    Quote Originally Posted by bertietheblue View Post
    Is 'wave your hands in the air like you didn't care' an example of the use of the past in the present (or attitudinal past), which is sometimes used as a more polite form than the present tense, eg 'Did you want a cup of tea?' v 'Do you want a cup of tea?'? If so, I don't see the politeness in 'wave your hands in the air like you didn't care', so can the attitudinal past have other functions?
    I don't know what attitudinal past is... I always thought we used the past subjunctive to refer to hypothetical situations/actions. And I think "as if" introduces something hypothetical. I don't think it has anything to do with politeness.

    I was simply taught to use it this way, never saw it used otherwise, and thought it was logical. So it isn't?

  10. #10
    bertietheblue is offline Senior Member
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    Re: "like" to mean "as if"

    Quote Originally Posted by birdeen's call View Post
    I don't know what attitudinal past is... I always thought we used the past subjunctive to refer to hypothetical situations/actions. And I think "as if" introduces something hypothetical. I don't think it has anything to do with politeness.

    I was simply taught to use it this way, never saw it used otherwise, and thought it was logical. So it isn't?
    Yeah, maybe you're right and it's just the 2nd conditional:

    like you didn't care = as if you didn't care = as you would if you didn't care.

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