Such As vs. Like: What’s the Difference?

Such As vs. Like: What’s the Difference?

While they may seem interchangeable, the terms “such as” and “like” actually have different meanings and are used in different ways. While “like” is used to compare things with similar characteristics, “such as” is used to introduce specific examples. 

In this blog post, we’ll explore how and when to use these two terms and what punctuation to put with them.

Such As

“Such as” is typically an adverb and is used to clarify your meaning or introduce specific examples. For example:

I love watching dramatic films such as Gone Girl and The Godfather.

Generally speaking, it’s acceptable to have up to four examples when using “such as,” especially if they’re one-word examples. More than that can impact flow and concision. For example:

Cruciferous vegetables, such as cauliflower, cabbage, kale, Brussel sprouts, bok choy, and broccoli, have many health benefits.


“Like” can function as an adverb, an adjective, or a preposition. It’s used to describe things with similar characteristics, though these similarities may be insignificant or unspecified. For example:

Students like Danielle are a dream come true.

In this example, even though Danielle’s positive qualities are not specified, we can imagine what they might be for her to be “a dream come true.”

Although it’s better to use “like” to present comparisons, it can also be used to list examples. For example:

I love rock bands like Muse and Radiohead.

Saying “like Muse and Radiohead” implies that you enjoy bands that play rock music in the same style as Muse and Radiohead but not necessarily Muse or Radiohead themselves.

Comma or No Comma?

Lists that use “such as” or “like” can be restrictive or nonrestrictive clauses. But when do you need to use a comma? 

  • Restrictive clauses: Restrictive clauses are vital. If you remove them from the sentence, it changes the meaning. The examples are specific and essential to the meaning of the sentence; thus, no commas are needed. For example:

Noam Chomsky writes about topics such as linguistics and politics.

  • Nonrestrictive clauses: Nonrestrictive clauses don’t provide essential information to the sentence. They may elaborate on a point, but removing them won’t change the meaning. Since the sentence around them can stand on its own, commas are needed. For example: 

They wanted a fun theme, like Disney or The Great Gatsby, for prom.

Becoming a Proofreader

If you’d like to learn how to differentiate words with similar meanings like a pro, our Becoming A Proofreader course will teach you everything you need to know! Sign up for a free trial today.

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