He spoke as if he was reading off a book.

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JBPARK

Senior Member
"He spoke as if he was reading off a book."
"He spoke like he was reading off a book."


HI,

I am trying to write a sentence to describe a way a person speaks that seems like he is reading from a book.

Are "as if" and "like" in those above sentences both acceptable in their usages?

Would there be a more idiomatic expression to convey the same idea?

My sentences seem too drawn out and plain, if you know what I mean...

Thanks for your help.
 
  • perpend

    Banned
    American English
    I think both "as if" and "like" are okay. I might say: He spoke like (as if) he was reading directly from a book.
     

    JBPARK

    Senior Member
    Thanks, P.

    Would you say there is a considerable difference in nuance between "reading off a book" and reading from a book" that would affect the tone of the sentence?

    I initially decided to go with "off" since, to me, it felt more "instant" and "direct".

    But if it sounds rather wrong to your native ears, then I should probably change it to "from".
     

    perpend

    Banned
    American English
    Hmmm ... that's an excellent question, JB. Others will have to help you. I would say things like "to read off a teleprompter" "to read off a screen", but somehow my first tendency would be "read from a book". Again, good question. It's just my feeling, so let's wait to hear from others!
     

    owlman5

    Senior Member
    English-US
    People use "like" as a conjunction all the time over here, JB Park. Many grammarians disapprove of this use, but I think they've already lost the war.

    If you're writing in an informal style, using "like" is fine. If you're writing for a learned audience, they might not like your use of "like". :)

    PS I agree with the others about the strangeness of "off a book". I'd use "out of a book" or "from a book". Nat's suggestion also sounds very good.
     

    pwmeek

    Senior Member
    English - American
    You can simplify matters and say 'He talked like a book'.
    Beautiful...
    (AE) This is (was?) frequently used to describe someone who has a pedantic style of speech - someone whose normal speech (and vocabulary) sounds like the English found in textbooks and classical literature. Among the young, it is slightly pejorative, or at least it was when I was young (1950s). "You talk like a book." (You don't use slang and the teacher never corrects your English.)

    If you simply mean cadenced, as though reading existing material (rather than the usual pauses and back-tracking found in most extemporaneous speech), you might want to stick with "...as if reading from a book."
     
    Last edited:

    sdgraham

    Senior Member
    USA English
    "He spoke as if he was reading off a book.
    Strictly speaking, the "as if" is perfect. The rest of the sentence has problems, however. (strictly speaking, of course)

    "He spoke as if he was were reading off from a book.
     

    Keith Bradford

    Senior Member
    English (Midlands UK)
    I'd suggest that "like" is a preposition - he talked like a book; "as if" is a conjunction - he talked as if he were reading from a book".

    I know that American usage is moving away from this, but to a British ear the use of "like" as a conjunction still makes the speaker/writer sound childish and/or Californian. (Blame the over-use of it in the like y'know hippy era, like.)
     

    Ironicus

    Senior Member
    English & Swahili - East Africa
    It depends what you're trying to say:
    Do you mean, he spoke fluently and without hesitation about something complex?
    A person who speaks like this may have written the book himself, as when Watson or Crick spoke about DNA.
    Do you mean, he spoke mechanically, as if reading words not his own?
    I suppose this is best expressed as he spoke as if teleprompted.This word fills a real need!
    Do you mean, his speech was educated and eloquent, without errors?
    Then you might say his speech was bookish. This is the way your pastor speaks at the funerals of eminent people he didn't know.
     

    brunaa

    Senior Member
    Portuguese(BR)- English(US) bilingual
    Strictly speaking, the "as if" is perfect. The rest of the sentence has problems, however. (strictly speaking, of course)

    "He spoke as if he was were reading off from a book.
    I have a question regarding your correction: I've learned that for hipotetical situations the subjunctive should be used:

    1) She talks as if she knew a thing about it. (In this sentence it's implied that I do think she knows nothing about what she's talking.)

    2) She talks as if she knows about it. (In this sentence I'm not sure wheter she knows or not, but apparently she speaks as if she does.)

    Are my interpretations correct?

    Thank you.
     

    sdgraham

    Senior Member
    USA English
    2) She talks as if she knows about it. (In this sentence I'm not sure wheter she knows or not, but apparently she speaks as if she does.)
    I think you have a good grasp of the imperfect subjunctive, but I would drop the "as if" and say

    " .... as though she knows ... " (I'm not sure why, however)
     
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