7

I got into a disagreement with a friend about this. Does the word "like" require an "etc." used with it if we're describing some of many objects?

For example, let's consider seven places A, B, C, D, E, F and G.

Which of these forms of description is more correct?

Diamonds can be found in many places, like A, B and C.

Diamonds can be found in many places, like A, B, C etc.

3
  • 2
    The example is more suited to "such as" (an inclusive list) than "like" (exclusive), although the latter is sometimes found in informal contexts. Apr 1, 2022 at 10:56
  • The example is indeed more suited to "such as", but not because of an inclusive/exclusive difference. Rather "such as" introduces a list of examples, whereas "like" introduces a list of similarities. It is not so uncommon to use "like" where "such as" would be a better fit, but that does blur the meaning a bit. Apr 2, 2022 at 14:33
  • 1
    None of the answers have mentioned this, so I'm wondering if I've been misinformed over the years, but I'd been instructed along the lines of "Don’t use etc. to end a list that begins with e.g., since it is by definition a list of examples.". If "like" in the question is intended with the same meaning as "such as", then this advice would seem to apply. Apr 3, 2022 at 0:11

3 Answers 3

26

No, it isn't necessary to add etcetera to the end of a list of examples. By using like you are already indicating that A, B and C are only some of the places in question.

You could instead say

Diamonds are found in A, B, C etc.

indicating that there are other places where diamonds are found.

7
  • 11
    In careful usage I would would use "like" only to introduce an archetype whose characteristics can be extrapolated. So, "sandstorms are a constant danger in deserts like the Sahara" makes sense. But "diamonds are found in places like Russia and South Africa" ... those places aren't "like" each other, much less wherever else diamonds are found (except of course for the diamonds). The phrasing in this answer is much better.
    – CCTO
    Mar 31, 2022 at 17:35
  • 7
    Russia and South Africa are "like" each other in that they have rich diamond producing volcanic pipes right?
    – qwr
    Mar 31, 2022 at 20:04
  • 1
    @CCTO You are interpreting "like" to mean "sharing characteristics with," in which case you might be correct. But "like" in this context can also mean "such as." It just indicates that we are giving examples of places that have diamonds, without any claim that those places have any similarities to other places where diamonds may be found.
    – d_b
    Apr 1, 2022 at 21:23
  • 2
    @JounceCracklePop - I'm not sure that the use of et cetera necessarily means that the reader has to know what the 'other things' are - it just indicates that there are others. Apr 2, 2022 at 7:32
  • 2
    @CCTO You dropped the comma, which changes the meaning. "Sandstorms are a constant danger in deserts like the Sahara" means "Sandstorms are a constant danger in deserts that are like the Sahara". "Sandstorms are a constant danger in deserts, like the Sahara" means "Sandstorms are a constant danger in deserts, and Sahara is an example of a desert where sandstorms are a constant danger". Apr 2, 2022 at 22:57
17

When we use "like", we are not giving an exhaustive list. So if I say, "Dairy products are foods like milk and cheese", I am not saying that milk and cheese are the only dairy products; I am saying that milk and cheese are examples of dairy products but there are others.

Similarly, "etc" is also used for non-exhaustive lists: "Dairy products include milk, cheese etc." Here again, I am not saying that there are no dairy products other than milk and cheese.

So I would say that using "etc" (which follows a non-exhaustive list) with "like" (which precedes a non-exhaustive list of examples) is almost always superfluous.

3
  • 1
    Even in your example "etc" is superfluous: "Dairy products include milk and cheese" works the same. Apr 1, 2022 at 14:56
  • 4
    @HoneyBadger Right, "includes" also implies that the list is not exhaustive. You would use "etc." if you said "Dairy products are milk, cheese, etc."
    – Barmar
    Apr 1, 2022 at 15:29
  • 4
    To be clear, it's not wrong to use both "like" and "etc.", just redundant and unnecessary. At worst, it just seems slightly wordier than it has to be, but that doesn't make it incorrect or even unnatural-sounding to use both. Apr 1, 2022 at 18:20
2

No, this construction is often used without a final item like “etc.,” “et cetera” or “and so on.” One has never been required in English.

An example going back to Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales:

For ther he was nat lyk a cloysterer

With a thredbare cope, as is a povre scoler,

But he was lyk a maister or a pope.

Edit: This answer was migrated over from another site. If you’re learning English, I hope the first paragraph was helpful! But don’t worry about reading Chaucer in the original Middle English.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .