2

Could you please tell me if it is possible to use "as" in this context, or only "like" can be used, or both options are possible?

6
  • 3
    @BillyKerr: Hmm. With my sun-tan, I'm brown as a berry. That's also "comparing two things that look similar". I'm pretty sure as is "syntactically valid" in OP's cited context, so it's just a matter of what's idiomatic. But I'm also sure there must be identifiable principles governing which contexts most naturally suit one usage or the other (and doubtless some contexts where both are equally idiomatic). Jun 5 at 11:11
  • 1
    @FumbleFingers "[as] brown as a berry", surely, but that is a different construction, and it's technically a simile, an expression: such as "as small as a mouse", "as big as an elephant", etc. The OP is comparing something that looks physically like another thing directly, and "like" is the appropriate word for that. That said, there are always possible exceptions to such "rules".
    – Billy Kerr
    Jun 5 at 11:34
  • 1
    It might be possible to use "as" here. One possibility is to change the construction a little: "The water sparkled as diamonds do, in the sunlight".
    – Billy Kerr
    Jun 5 at 11:49
  • 2
    I feel like as is used for comparisons of degree (e.g. "tall as a tree": it equalled the tree in height) and like is used for similarity (e.g. "sparkled like a diamond": it sparkled in the same way that a diamond does) but that's just off the top of my head and there are probably counterexamples.
    – stangdon
    Jun 5 at 13:52
  • 1
    There's not really much to choose between I love him as a brother and I love him like a brother. As that usage chart shows, they're both about equally common, and I don't think there's any point in suggesting that they mean even slightly different things. It's just a matter of "idiomacy", which is very slowly shifting in favour of the more explicit "comparative" like, over the centuries. Jun 5 at 17:13

2 Answers 2

2

This is a tricky question, because the difference between simile and metaphor becomes muddled in poetic writing. Sentences 1 and 2 have different meanings:

1. The water sparkled like diamonds in the sunset

2. The water sparkled as diamonds in the sunset

Sentence 1 means that the water was similar to diamonds (in its sparkling). Sentence two means that the water literally is diamonds. Of course, sentence two is factually incorrect - water is not diamonds. However, because the metaphor (sparkling as diamonds) is a more powerful statement, authors are well known to use this language figuratively to try and convey more forcefully the resemblance of the two things.

So, either is valid and idiomatic English - though one is factually incorrect prose used for effect. I'd recommend you use 1, though, because it's best to make a habit of factually accurate statements, and it can be hard to tell when the figurative language is idiomatic and when it is not.

0

Everyone agrees that like is idiomatic in your example, but there's considerable doubt about as.

You must log in to answer this question.

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