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"The like of" vs "the likes of"

Discussion in 'English Only' started by I_like_my_TV, May 21, 2007.

  1. I_like_my_TV Senior Member

    Tongan
    I've seen expressions like: "dogs, foxes, and the like" and also "we don't want the likes of you around here" but I can't tell the difference between the uses of the singular & plural form of "the like of". What difference would it make if "we don't want the likes of you around here" is changed into "we don't want the like of you around here" ? And why can't we say "dogs, foxes, and the likes" ?

    Thanks!
     
  2. panjandrum

    panjandrum PongoMod

    Belfast, Ireland
    English-Ireland (top end)
    I wonder if this question is related to the "kind of v kinds of" question - all kinds of things/thing
    It may be.
    Looking at the OED, like is correctly used in "dogs, foxes, and the like" and should be singular.
    Likes in "we don't want the likes of you around here" is noted as colloquial. Both singular and plural examples are given.
     
  3. I_like_my_TV Senior Member

    Tongan
    Thank you for replying, panjandrum.

    I can see some logical correlation between "kind/kinds" and "thing/things", but not between "like/likes" and the nouns that accompany them. In fact, from the examples I cited above, "like" comes with 2 nouns in the plural, and "likes" comes with a noun in the singular, which prompted my question. I'll have to look out for further examples to see if the singular and plural markings of these phrases are simply idiomatic.
     
  4. Sherlockat

    Sherlockat Senior Member

    Australia
    Castilian (Patagonian)
    A while ago, WR's someone else posted this:



    In your opinion, what is the best way to use "the likes of..."? How effective can be to use it in academic contexts (such as essay or papers)?
     
  5. PaulQ

    PaulQ Senior Member

    UK
    English - England
    I am not persuaded that "likes" refers only to people. Rather likes is in the plural as several styles are being discussed.

    "Predators exist in all phylums, we have the likes of the shark, the hawk, the large cats..." i.e. groups that have a similarity whilst differing from the other groups in form.
     
  6. owlman5

    owlman5 Senior Member

    Colorado
    English-US
    I'd use "the likes of" anywhere I wanted an informal or colloquial variation of "such as". Original works by artists such as Lichtenstein. Original works by the likes of Lichtenstein. I would find lively language refreshing in academic literature, but others may not consider it appropriate.
     
  7. Sherlockat

    Sherlockat Senior Member

    Australia
    Castilian (Patagonian)
    Then, for instance, this phase would be okay (its formality), would't it? (taken from the net)
    While recording more albums and playing with the likes of Ringo Starr and Stevie Wonder, she staked out parallel careers as a producer and a composer for movies.
     
  8. DocPenfro

    DocPenfro Senior Member

    Little England
    English - British
    Regard "the likes of" as being equivalent to "people who are similar to" (or substitute other animals or subjects as required).
    I would say that it should only be used in informal contexts. More often than not, it is used in ways that are dismissive, or otherwise implying a negative opinion, of the people/items under discussion. There are other formulaic expressions that would be more appropriate if you are writing something serious.
     
  9. owlman5

    owlman5 Senior Member

    Colorado
    English-US
    It sounds perfectly natural in that sentence, Sherlockat.
     
  10. Sherlockat

    Sherlockat Senior Member

    Australia
    Castilian (Patagonian)
    I see. Thanks guys for shedding light on the subject.
     
  11. Sherlockat

    Sherlockat Senior Member

    Australia
    Castilian (Patagonian)
    A scope. My question sprang from my desire for improving my academic jargon used in my papers...I think "the likes of" is a good alternative for "such as."
    Thanks again.
     
  12. Snyps New Member

    English - U.S.A.
    I agree with DocPenfro about its being dismissive in some way, more often than not. What brought me to this site was the small jolt I got this morning from the following statement on the institutional subscription page of Scientific American: "In addition to the likes of Albert Einstein, Francis Crick, Jonas Salk and Linus Pauling, Scientific American continues to attract esteemed authors from many fields." I started wondering whether I was alone in having this reaction and was relieved to see Doc's comment.
    Many of the definitions I have seen elsewhere contained quotations that, indeed, did seem dismissive, but no one pointed out that tendency.
     
  13. JustKate

    JustKate Moderate Mod

    Hmm, I don't think I agree that it is automatically dismissive, though it certainly can be. If it's used on its own (e.g., "the likes of you"), it's almost always dismissive, but aside from that, it becomes dismissive or positive based entirely on the names that are used. Albert Einstein: Positive. Stalin: Negative. That's how it seems to me, at least.

    It's definitely informal, though. I wonder if the chatty quality that it gives a sentence can make it sound more dismissive than it technically is?
     
  14. PaulQ

    PaulQ Senior Member

    UK
    English - England
    I see, "the likes of" as entirely neutral but influenced by context: I would not have raised an eyebrow at the Scientific American example. Perhaps it is the human tendency to be critical rather than praising... :)
     
  15. owlman5

    owlman5 Senior Member

    Colorado
    English-US
    The sentence sure doesn't surprise me. I've seen and heard the phrase used with a positive sense fairly often in the past.
     
  16. Snyps New Member

    English - U.S.A.
    Just Kate:
    Not "automatically dismissive," just "more often than not" in my experience. Perhaps I tend to read more negative things than others do. :D
     
  17. Snyps New Member

    English - U.S.A.
    PaulQ, In my case, I think my eyebrows shot up just because I happen to have come across the term more often in a critical sense than a neutral or favorable one, which depends on the context and what follows "the likes of" more than it does on the attitude of the reader. Or is that, perhaps, the point you are making? Granted, I am old, and it may also be that the way this expression is used has been changing during the past several decades.
     
  18. PaulQ

    PaulQ Senior Member

    UK
    English - England
    Yes, I agree that the dismissive side is probably commoner as in #2 "We don't want the likes of you around here." but not vastly.

    If I say "It was the likes of Smith, Jones, and Davis who started the movement." There is no indication as to the positive or negative connotation but context/tone will tell us. Likewise, "We will not see the likes of them again." fits with the famous and infamous.
     
  19. Forero Senior Member

    Houston, Texas, USA
    USA English
    In my experience, "the likes" always goes with "of" and an object and means "such (people, etc.) as", while "the like" is complete by itself and means "other such (animals, etc.)".
     
  20. wandle

    wandle Senior Member

    London
    English - British
    There is a problem common to 'the likes of' (which is colloquial) and 'such as' (which is suitable in correct written English).
    In either case, the speaker or writer wants to increase the range of the statement, but without telling us who or what the other examples of it are.

    This always makes me wonder whether there really are any other valid examples.
     
  21. Loob

    Loob Senior Member

    English UK
    Hi Snyps - welcome to the forums!

    Like you, I would have been rather taken aback by "the likes of Albert Einstein"; the phrase "the likes of" definitely has dismissive overtones for me.

    I wouldn't, for example, use Paul's "We will not see the likes of them again" in respect of people I admired: it would need to be "We will not see their like again".
     
  22. Snyps New Member

    English - U.S.A.
    Quite true. I confess that upon reading your first sentence here, a faint feeling of prejudice against Smith, Jones, and Davis momentarily, crept into my mind; but I realize that if the movement in question were something I approved of, I would probably be left with merely the mild thought that I would like to have had them shown more respect by the use of "such as" or "activists like." As for the second sentence, I have to admit that I do see it as neutral, when given without any context. How delighted I am to have found this site. I love to discuss language.
     
  23. Forero Senior Member

    Houston, Texas, USA
    USA English
    "The likes of them" does seem a little demeaning, compared to "their likes". "Watson and Crick's likes" and "Watson's and Crick's likes" just doesn't work though. I would only say "the likes of Watson and Crick".
     
  24. Snyps New Member

    English - U.S.A.
    Thanks, Loob. I hadn't thought of it, but now that I see your suggestion for people we admire, I am in complete agreement with it. I'm glad to meet someone who has a sense of this expression that resembles my own. I am from New England originally, near Boston, with an ethnically English/Welsh/Scotch background, and wonder if that may have something to do with the similarity in our views. "We will not see their like again" definitely implies admiration.
     

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