Get Ready for B1: How to use the word ‘Like’
Talking about likes and dislikes is a typical topic in Part One of the Aptis Speaking tests and many other oral English exams. So let’s look at how to use ‘like’. It’s a small word with a lot of uses! ‘Like’ can be a verb or a preposition.
How to use ‘like’ as a verb
We use like to talk about people or things we enjoy or feel positive about.
In British English the verb ‘like’ is followed by verb +ing, plural nouns or uncountable nouns:
verb +ing: I like reading
plural nouns: I like fantasy stories
uncountable nouns: I like science fiction
In American English it’s more common to use like + to + infinitive. In British English we also use this structure, but not so much. We use it when we want to say that we think something’s a good idea, rather than to express enjoyment. For example:
I like to wash my hair three times a week.
I don’t actually enjoy washing my hair, but I think it’s a good idea.
We never use ‘the’ when we’re speaking about something in general:
I like cats (NOT I like the cats).
But we do use it if we’re referring to something specific:
But I don’t like the cat that lives next-door.
Remember that to form questions and short-form answers, we need the auxiliary verb ‘do’:
Do you like swimming? Yes, I do (NOT ‘Yes, I like’) / No, I don’t.
We use ‘like’ with ‘would’ (pronounced /wʊd/) to talk about something we want to do in the future.
The structure would like is always followed by to + infinitive:
I would like to travel around the world.
We usually use contractions, especially in spoken English. I would like = I’d (pronounced /aɪd/) like:
I’d like to go to Vietnam.
We use contractions with the other subject pronouns too: you’d like, he’d like, she’d like, we’d like, they’d like
We also use ‘would like’ for offers:
Would you like a cup of tea?
We can only use contractions in negative short-form answers:
Yes, I would (NOT ‘Yes, I’d) / No, I wouldn’t.
Like or would like?
Read the dialogue about going out to eat, and complete the gaps with like or would like plus the the correct form of the verb in brackets. For example:
A: Do you like going to restaurants?
Ana: ___________ (go) to restaurants?
Bob: Not much, but I ___________ (go) to tapas bars.
Ana: ___________(go) out to eat tonight?
Bob: I can’t tonight, but I ___________ (go) tomorrow.
Ana: Where ___________ (go)?
Bob: I think ___________ (go) to Duo Tapas in the Alameda neighbourhood. They have some delicious food.
Ana: OK, sounds good. What kind of food ___________ in general?
Bob: Well, my favourite dishes are meat-based. I ___________ traditional tapas. And you?
Ana: ___________ (try) something new when I go out. It makes a change!
NOTE: ‘tapas’ are small portions of food you can eat in Spanish bars.
Answers at the bottom of the page.
How to use ‘like’ as a preposition
Here like means ‘similar to’:
Tangerines are like small oranges.
We can describe how similar by using a lttle, a bit, quite, just, a lot, really:
Her shoes are a bit like yours, but the colour’s different.
The Harry Potter films were quite like the books.
That car is just like mine – it’s almost identical!
When we say one person is like another person, we usually mean similar in character or personality:
I’m like my mum – we’re both friendly and sociable.
But we can also talk about appearance:
I’m like my dad – we’re both tall and thin.
When we use look like, we’re only talking about appearance or looks:
I look like my dad – we both have narrow faces and small mouths.
Who do you look like in your family?
Like is also used with other ‘sense’ verbs:
That band sounds a lot like the Rolling Stones.
Duck tastes a bit like chicken.
This fabric feels like silk.
She seems like a nice person.
Your shampoo smells like chocolate!
Common questions with like
When we use like in questions, we want the other person to describe someone or something. Look at this dialogue about a holiday:
Adam: Hi – you look great! Did you have a good holiday?
Bibi: Yes, it was fantastic! We went to Goa.
Adam: Wow! What was it like?
Bibi: Amazing! Beautiful sandy beaches, tropical forests …
Adam: And what was the weather like?
Bibi: It was really hot and sunny.
Adam: What was the food like?
Bibi: It was delicious – hot and spicy!
Adam: And the people – what were they like?
Bibi: Everyone we met was really friendly and helpful. We had a great time!
Notice that we don’t use like in the answers.
When we’re talking about the job someone does, we don’t use like:
She works as a teacher (NOT ‘like a teacher’).
We use like to make comparisons:
He works like a dog (he works very hard).
Now try this mini-test to see what you remember.
You’ll find more basic vocabulary presentations and exercises under the heading ‘Get ready for B1’. Try Get Ready for B1: Talking about Family, for example.
There are also pre-B1 grammar presentations and practice, such as Get Ready for B1: Comparatives & Superlatives.
If you want more vocabulary practice, we recommend the excellent ‘English in Use’ series published by Cambridge. There are Elementary, Intermediate and Advanced versions.
A: Do you like going to restaurants?
B: Not much, but I like going to tapas bars.
A: Would you like to go out to eat tonight?
B: I can’t tonight, but I’d/I would like to go tomorrow.
A: Where would you like to go?
B: I think I’d like to go to Duo Tapas in the Alameda neighbourhood. They have some delicious food.
A: OK, sounds good. What kind of food do you like in general?
B: Well, my favourite dishes are meat-based. I like traditional tapas. And you?
A: I like to try / I like trying* something new when I go out. It makes a change!
* Both answers are possible here – maybe Ana thinks it’s a good idea to try something new, or maybe she enjoys it. Or maybe she’s American!