Like vs. For Example

How to use "like" and "for example" correctly

This is an entry on my list of Common Errors in English Usage. Visit the main page for direct links to additional entries.

Don’t use the word like to introduce an example at the beginning of a sentence:

Like the time I went to Taroko Gorge, that was an incredible experience.

These kinds of sentences contain dangling modifiers, because phrases beginning with like are descriptive phrases when they are used in this position in a sentence. The actual meaning of the above sentence would be to compare going to Taroko Gorge with going to some other place:

Like the time I went to Taroko Gorge, the time I went to Yangming Mountain was an incredible experience.

Instead of using like to introduce an example, use another expression, such as for example:

For example, one incredible experience I had in Taiwan was going to Taroko Gorge.

Sometimes for example sounds better when it’s used in the middle of the sentence, after the example itself has been named. It should be set off from the rest of the sentence with commas:

The natural beauty of Taroko Gorge, for example, is comparable to that of the Grand Canyon.

For example can also be tacked onto the end of a sentence to give a different emphasis. Again, it should be set off with a comma:

There are many fun places to go in Taiwan. I had a great time in Nantou, for example.

When using for example, be careful not to write a fragment:

For example, going to Taroko Gorge.

The natural beauty of Taroko Gorge, for example.

Like can be used in other places in a sentence to introduce an example, in the same way such as is used:

I visited many beautiful natural areas in Taiwan, like Taroko Gorge and Yangming Mountain.

Beautiful natural areas, like Taroko Gorge and Yangming Mountain, abound in Taiwan.

Like should only be used at the beginning of a sentence to make a comparison between the object of like and the subject of the next clause:

Like Susan, John felt that the show wasn’t very interesting. [comparing John to Susan]

Like the band’s previous album, its most recent album contains genre-bending songs. [comparing the band’s most recent album to its previous album]

Unlike can be used in the same way to show contrast:

Unlike Susan, John liked the show. [contrasting John with Susan in terms of their opinions about the show]

Related Resources

Common Errors in English Usage: Errors in diction and idiom commonly made by native speakers of English

List of Common Errors in English Usage (PDF): Printable version of the complete list

Common Grammar Errors: A list of common errors in grammar (topics like subject-verb agreement and parallelism) as distinct from usage

List of Common Errors in English Usage: PDF version

© 2006, 2008, and 2019 C. Brantley Collins, Jr.