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I think have heard some instances in colloquial English in which people use "like" along with ing-form verbs, for example, "We were like boiling of the heat".

I have written the following text from another language:

Rasha had bruised below his eyes, we were like fasting for days [because there was no food].

I mean that we were so short of food reserves as if we were fasting. Is this {like+ing-form} a correct English usage?

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    Yes, we were like something means we looked as if we were something. So in this case, we looked like we were fasting for days. Commented Aug 20, 2015 at 12:31
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    I'm not sure why you would choose to add this filler text to something that sounds like a very serious sentence. This is a very informal usage and I strongly recommend (personally) that everyone, regardless of whether they speak it natively or not, avoid it... Regardless, if you were to use it in the manner suggested below, it would be more common to place "like" before "days". "We were fasting for, like, days." This emphasizes the word "days".
    – Catija
    Commented Aug 20, 2015 at 14:32

1 Answer 1

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Like in your first example is not a comparator but a colloquial discourse marker, which acts to focus what immediately follows it. It has been characteristic of the language of young people for fifty years or so, and is pretty much confined to that speech community.

I thought The Matrix was like awesome. Totally.

In your proposed sentence like has to be taken in this discourse marker sense. When you say that X is like Y, X and Y must be comparable entities; but in your sentence we designates persons while fasting is an action.

If you want to say that your enforced hunger was analogous to religious fasting, use as if or something of that sort, or use like in a syntactic context where it cannot be taken as the discourse marker.

We went hungry for three days, as if we were fasting.
With almost no food, it was almost like fasting; we were constantly hungry.

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    In written language, I have typically seen the "like" offset by commas, as in: "I thought The Matrix was, like, awesome. Totally."
    – hBy2Py
    Commented Aug 20, 2015 at 17:56
  • @Brian Yah, that's a convenient typographic device for marking it as a marker (!). But in speech there's no discernible pause before like, and rarely one after it. Commented Aug 20, 2015 at 18:23
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    Mmm... now that you point it out, I think I've actually heard it with both cadences--both with and without pauses before and after. I would say the difference is the emotional intensity/aspect of the speaker. 'No pauses' gives a high intensity; 'with pauses' gives a more laconic feel.
    – hBy2Py
    Commented Aug 20, 2015 at 18:43
  • @talmu Actually, it was about 'quotative like', which is a special instance of dm 'like', and it was funny, too. Commented Aug 20, 2015 at 20:07
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    Some people also use like as a filler, similar to er or um, as a noise to make while they think about what to say next. And I have to say, like in either sense is pretty common among US speakers of my generation (born say 1975-1985), and it would be very generous to describe us as "young". Commented Aug 20, 2015 at 20:43

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