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a. My sister played the violin as my brother did.

b. My sister played the violin like my brother (did).


Do those only mean

  1. My sister played the violin in the same manner my brother did.

or could they also mean

  1. My sister played the violin and my brother did too.

?

Don't we need a comma for the second meaning?

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    Adding a comma before the word 'like' or 'as' would definitely exclude the first possible meaning. I'm not entirely sure whether a comma is strictly necessary in order to allow the second interpretation, but if you do want to specify the second meaning, you should use a comma as that makes it clear you mean 2. instead of 1. That's a great question! Commented May 23, 2023 at 2:02
  • 1
    Both sentences can be understood to have either meaning -- they are both ambiguous. Do you have a specific question about the functions of "like" and "as"?
    – gotube
    Commented May 23, 2023 at 2:30
  • Also possible... "My sister played violin, as did my brother." Commented May 23, 2023 at 6:45

1 Answer 1

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We usually surround nonrestrictive / parenthetical phrases with paired commas. However, whether a phrase meets that condition is often quite debatable. When a phrase follows a verb that it modifies, we usually don't use commas unless that phrase is clearly nonrestrictive / parenthetical. Therefore:


Without commas, "as" and "like" would normally mean "in the same way as" (your meaning #1).

My sister played the violin as my brother did.
My sister played the violin like my brother (did).

(Some people might write these sentences intending the other meaning.)


With commas, "as" and "like" would almost certainly mean that the brother played the violin, too (your meaning #2).

My sister played the violin, as my brother did.
My sister played the violin, like my brother (did).
(The second comma disappears because it is next to the period.)

(It's very unlikely that someone would write these sentences intending the other meaning.)

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    If you say, My sister played the violin as my brother did, I understand this to mean their style of play, song selection, or missing pinkie fingers produced similar results from the violin. If you say, My sister played the violin as did my brother, I understand this to mean you had at least two violin playing siblings. Of course, as an American, I would like to use the word like as many times as possible in like every situation.
    – EllieK
    Commented May 23, 2023 at 13:44
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    @EllieK Yes, inversion tends to work better with certain meanings than others, so that can certainly change things. It also happens, e.g., with the pro-verb "so": "I play violin although my brother plays it so." ("So" means "thus", not "also".) "I play violin, although so does my brother." ("So" means "also", not "thus".) Commented May 23, 2023 at 19:43

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