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Between the three sentences is there any difference?

  • You should think as I do to be me.
  • You should think like I do to be me.
  • You should think like me to be me.

Are the first and second formal or are they all informal?

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    Many people would say that like in such contexts is more informal than as - especially when followed by a simple noun (me) rather than a complete "verb phrase" (I do). Precise context affects things too - I wish you'd do like I say sounds far more informal (almost clumsy) than, for example, He doesn't think like me. Nov 15, 2017 at 17:58
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    All 3, the "to be me" part sounds very foreign and a bit clumsy and would require more context or an outright change to work well. In terms of formality, the 1st sounds very slightly more formal. To fix the ending, perhaps try: "If you want to (be like me / replace me / become me/ act like me), you should first think like me." The "to be me" part of your sentence can mean any of these and therefore is confusing or slightly rude (I don't want to be replaced...). Nov 15, 2017 at 19:57
  • @MichaelDorgan to be me means to make people think you are me. That's exactly what I wanted to say. Nov 16, 2017 at 3:17

1 Answer 1

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Your first two examples are identical in both syntax and meaning. However, some people deprecate the use of "like" as a subordinating conjunction. One popular guide says:

Like is correctly used as a preposition. Although like is also widely used as a conjunction in colloquial speech, use as, as if, or a similar expression in written material. (William A. Sabin, The Gregg Reference Manual (10th edition), McGraw-Hill, section 1101 (page 333))

Merriam-Webster takes a somewhat more permissive (descriptive) approach:

There is no doubt that, after 600 years of use, conjunctive like is firmly established. It has been used by many prestigious literary figures of the past, though perhaps not in their most elevated works; in modern use it may be found in literature, journalism, and scholarly writing. While the present objection to it is perhaps more heated than rational, someone writing in a formal prose style may well prefer to use as, as if, such as, or an entirely different construction instead.

Your third example replaces the adverbial clause "as/like I do" with the adverbial prepositional phrase "like me". The meaning is unchanged, and the syntax is consistent with M-W's definition of "like" as a preposition:

2: in the manner of : similarly to
| acts like a fool

M-W's example has the same meaning as "acts as/like a fool acts", confirming that the clause and prepositional phrase have similar meanings.

Based on the above, I would consider the first example to be the most formal and the second to be the least formal, although any of the examples could appear in nearly any context.

(By the way, the meaning of these sentences seems unusual. Is the speaker suggesting that someone else can be the speaker merely by thinking a certain way? Without context, it sounds strange.)

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  • The context speaks about a certain way of formulating thoughts in a similar way the speaker does. Jul 10, 2023 at 7:52
  • So, based on the answer, "as I" is much better than "like I" in formal English? Jul 10, 2023 at 7:53
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    @SovereignSun Yes, I'd say so. People who entirely accept "like I do" wouldn't complain in any circumstance. People who object to using "like" as a conjunction would more likely complain in formal contexts than in casual ones (where they might consider it at least partially acceptable). Jul 10, 2023 at 17:32

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