It isn't like...

sky753

Senior Member
Chinese
Hi Everyone,

In the TV series friends 4 I have heard a sentence " it isn't like we know each other or have anything in common" . I don't understand excatly the usage and the meaning of the phrase it is/isn't like ... and it seems to me that the phrase is used in spoken English not the written one, right ? Can you explain to us here?

Thanks and Regards

Sky
 
  • owlman5

    Senior Member
    English-US
    Using "like" this way means the same thing as "as if" or "as though", sk753. Most grammarians whose opinions I've read hate it and advise against using "like" this way. Most speakers I've heard here in the U.S. don't care what the grammarians say and use it frequently with this meaning. If your aim is to write or speak colloquial U.S. English, you can use "like" with this meaning. You should avoid it in formal writing or if you are writing some paper for a grade in school.
     
    Last edited:

    Glenfarclas

    Senior Member
    English (American)
    With "like" or "as though," this is a common construction in which "it" stands in for something like "the situation."

    --"It's as though she were still alive" = This situation is very much like it would be if she were still alive (because we still feel her presence with us, etc.).

    --"It isn't like he loves you" = Your situation is not similar to one in which he loves you (because he does not).

    Mostly, this serves to soften slightly the effect of what is being expressed. "She's practically still alive!" would be too morbid, and "He doesn't love you" would be too harsh. In your example, to say "We don't know each other or have anything in common" sounds overly blunt, so it gets rephrased into the elliptical "It isn't like ..." construction. This is definitely more common in spoken English than good written English, but in informal writing it is not out of the question.
     
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