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a. I opened the can like he told me.

b. I opened the can, like he told me to.

Are both of the above grammatically correct and do they mean the same?

Do they mean:

  1. I opened the can in the manner he told me to open it.

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c. I opened the can**,** like he told me.

d. I opened the can**,** like he told me to.

Are both of the above grammatically correct and do they mean the same?

Do they mean:

  1. He told me to open the can and I did.

I think (c) could mean:

  1. He told me that I opened the can and that is true. I did open the can.

Many thanks.

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  • They could mean "I opened the can because he told me to." If he wanted it opened by a particular method, you can say "I opened the can the way he told me (to)." Commented Mar 20, 2020 at 20:49

1 Answer 1

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The easy part is 3: not correct. To say that, the sentence would have to be "I opened the can, as he told me I had.". But, absent hypnosis or amnesia, why would anyone say that?

The next part is the use of "told me to" instead of "told me". I don't think that makes any difference in any of the cases. Either is usable with the same meaning.

The next part is the use of the comma. If the sentences are correctly punctuated, then, with the comma, the clause "like he told me to" means that I obeyed him and opened the can. Without the comma, it means "I opened the can in the manner he prescribed." But often, punctuation isn't perfect, and it may not correspond to how something is spoken, so the statements are ambiguous. Context may make it clear what is meant.

Finally, you could use "as" instead of "like", which may be thought informal. See the usage note at American Heritage Dictionary "like" (2) conj

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