1- This place smells like a squid farted inside a whale's butt.

I saw this line above from a tv-series. Using a full sentence after "like" seemed interesting to me.

1'- This place smells like a squid farting inside a whale's butt.

Can I use this version? Is there a difference in meaning between them.

2- It sounds like a baby is crying.

2'- It sounds like a baby crying.

3- The cup is still warm like somebody just drank coffee off it.

3'- The cup is still warm like somebody just drinking coffee off it.

Could you give your opinions on these versions?

2 Answers 2


In many cases you can substitute the present participle for the past participle, but only if it makes sense. Farting, for example, is something that happens, and only smelled after it is done. So in your first sentence it does not make sense to say "a squid farting".

It's the same with your third example. You would not handle the coffee if someone was in the process of drinking out of it, so instead the past participle makes more sentence.

However, it is possible to use the present perfect continuous, as this implies an action which continued up to the current moment.

The cup is still warm like somebody has just been drinking coffee from it.

(Your baby crying" example seems like a different grammar question. You might want to change it to, "It sounds like a baby cried," otherwise it should be asked as a separate question.)


"like" can function as a preposition, being followed by a noun phrase (NP), or as a conjunction (being synonymous with -- but more colloquial than -- "as if"), being followed by a clause.

(1') and (3') don't make sense because an action in the past tense is required to account for the current smell of the place or the current temperature of the cup, and the past meaning is not conveyed by V-ing.

I think (2') would be better if "crying" preceded "baby":

2''. It sounds like a crying baby.

Contrary to what @BillJ claimed (and probably downvoted me for), many consider "like" followed by a NP to be a preposition, NOT an adjective:

Source 1

like /laɪk/ preposition

1 SIMILAR similar to something else, or happening in the same way

Her hair is dark brown like mine.

A club should be like a big family.

He eats like a pig!

look/sound/feel/taste/seem like

The garden looked like a jungle.

At last he felt like a real soldier.

My experience is very much like that described in the book.

He’s very like his brother.

Sometimes you sound just like (=exactly like) my mum!

He’s growing more like his father every day.

He looked nothing like (=not at all like) the man in the police photograph.

Source 2

like preposition

Definition of like (Entry 4 of 9)

1a : having the characteristics of : similar to

his house is like a barn

it's like when we were kids

b : typical of

was like him to do that

c : comparable to : APPROXIMATING

costs something like fifty cents

2 : in the manner of : similarly to

acts like a fool

3 : as though there would be

looks like rain

4 : such as

a subject like physics

5 —used to form intensive or ironic phrases

fought like hell

like fun he did

laughed like anything

Source 3



1 Having the same characteristics or qualities as; similar to.

‘he used to have a car like mine’

‘they were like brothers’

‘she looked nothing like Audrey Hepburn’

1.1 In the manner of; in the same way or to the same degree as.

‘he was screaming like a banshee’

1.2 In a way appropriate to.

‘students were angry at being treated like children’

1.3 Such as one might expect from; characteristic of.

‘just like you to put a damper on people's enjoyment’

1.4 Used in questions to ask about the characteristics or nature of someone or something.

‘what is it like to be a tuna fisherman?’

‘what's she like?’

2 Used to draw attention to the nature of an action or event.

‘I apologize for coming over unannounced like this’

‘why are you talking about me like that?’

3 Such as; for example.

‘the cautionary vision of works like Animal Farm and 1984’

Source 4

Like can be used in the following ways:

as a preposition (followed by a noun):

He looks like his father.

as a conjunction (connecting two clauses):

She looked like she was about to cry.

as an adverb:

I said, like, you can’t do this to me.

as an adjective, especially in the phrase ‘of like mind’

  • Thank you. The sentence 2 is okay then? "It sounds like a baby is crying." Jul 1, 2019 at 0:16
  • Yes, that's correct.
    – Gustavson
    Jul 1, 2019 at 1:36
  • In constructions such as "Ed is like his father", "like" is an adjective.
    – BillJ
    Jul 1, 2019 at 6:44
  • @Gustavson Is there a difference between "It sounds like a baby crying" and "It sounds like a crying baby" ? Jul 10, 2019 at 10:35
  • 1) does make sense. a baby crying is a verb. A crying baby uses crying as an adjective.
    – Lambie
    Apr 17, 2022 at 15:01

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