I admit it. I did a lot of things when I was younger that maybe I shouldn't have. Like when I put a dead goldfish into Dr. Green's fish tank.

My question is

  1. Is "like" a conjunction word in the sentence in bold?
  2. Should the sentence in bold have the main clause? If it should, where is it?
  • 2
    The passage you quote is rather informal and conversational. A more formal version would be "I admit that when I was younger I did a lot of things that maybe I should not have done. For example, I put a dead goldfish into Dr. Green's fish tank," or "One of those things was...". – Kate Bunting Apr 9 at 16:39
  • 1
    Apart from being "informal, conversational, I think the cited usage is also slightly suspect on purely syntactic grounds. If we replace "colloquial, slangy" like with for example or such as, it seems to me the "correct" phrasing should also replace when I put a dead fish in his tank with an actual NOUN PHRASE that can properly serve as an example of the aforementioned lot of things. Hence I did a lot of things... such as putting a dead fish in his tank. Where I see putting as a gerund / noun usage. – FumbleFingers Apr 9 at 17:29
  • Note that strictly speaking there should probably be just a comma after the entirely optional clause that maybe I shouldn't have. In which case it should be easy to see that the "main clause" is I did a lot of things. Everything else is just optional embellishment. – FumbleFingers Apr 9 at 17:51
  • The second sentence is not a sentence. – FeliniusRex Apr 9 at 18:48

"Like" in this context is used to mean "For instance".

The thinking behind it is:

"There were a number of incidents, and all of them had the same theme, and they all (in that way) resembled this following incident, in which I put a dead goldfish into Dr. Green's tank."


In informal language there are structures that aren't full sentences:

Lot of animals come into my garden. For example, birds.

The second part has be punctuated as a sentence and in some ways it expresses a new idea, but it does so without forming a sentence. In formal writing you might write:

... For example, there are birds / ... For example, birds come into my garden. / For example, birds do.

There is no main clause in "For example, birds." because there is no clause at all.

You example is more complex. There is a subordinating conjuction "when" but no matrix clause. There is no main clause, and this is a sentence fragment. These are avoided in formal writing, but are quite common when speaking informally.

We would understand it this subordinate clause to function as either a complement

Like, There was when I ...

or a subject

Like, when I put ... tank was something I certainly should not have done.

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