Aubrey Carter
"3 Keys IELTS Certified Coach"

Have you noticed that native English speakers say ‘like’ a lot?

In today’s episode, linguist and author Valerie Fridland joins us to breakdown the word ‘like.’

She shares why it’s actually a positive and useful speech marker.

Valerie Fridland

Valerie is a linguist and author of the new book “Like, Literally, Dude: Arguing for the Good in Bad English”.

She is a professor of Linguistics in the English department at the University of Nevada.

She also writes a popular language blog on Psychology Today called “Language in the Wild.”

Valerie shares that when she was in college, her southern accent almost derailed her career plans.

  • derail: ruin or throw off course

She grew up in Memphis, Tennessee and decided to learn Chinese.

Her accent made it difficult to learning this language.

It can really be challenging to learn if your accent interferes with the tone system of a certain language.

This was the catalyst for Valerie’s pursuit of a career in language.

She was fascinated by many aspects of language besides structure and tone, such as social relations.

Misconceptions about modern English speech

Learning a new language can cause misconceptions at times, especially in modern English.

Some will see certain parts of a language negatively.

Valerie believes it doesn’t need to be that way and shares a misconception of modern American English habits.

This is the idea that you shouldn’t use the word ‘like’.

Using ‘like’ has taken its fair share of shade in American English.

A lot of people have a negative view of this word.

Some people think that if you use ‘like’ a lot when you speak, you aren’t sure of what you are saying.

Today you’ll get a breakdown of how ‘like’ is used to sound more like a native English speaker.

Valerie argues that you should use it to improve your English skills.

#1: ‘Like’ as a discourse marker

‘Like’ is used not only as a main verb, noun, or preposition but as a discourse marker.

It sounds random, chaotic, or meaningless.

This is a very negative view when in fact using ‘like’ has positive functions.

The first way to use it in a conversational setting is as an approximating adverbial.

This means to replace the word ‘about’ with the word ‘like’.


You’re visiting like 25 homes

Using ‘like’ instead of ‘about’ makes a conversation more informal.

Based on research, there are a lot of young people using ‘like’ as a substitution.

#2: ‘Like’ as a sentenial adverbial

Many speakers use ‘like’ as a sentential adverbial.

This is where you put ‘like’ at the beginning of a sentence.

You are doing this to connect a previous idea you mentioned.

You are replacing ‘like’ with ‘as an example’ to make it less formal.


We can do a whole episode on that using the word ‘stalkery.’ Like sometimes we use it as a joke or sometimes it’s more serious

Some may say that using ‘like’ at the beginning of your sentence can be unnecessary.

They would say removing ‘like’ won’t change the message of what you are saying but there is a meta-message.

This means it’s not about the content of the sentence but the message the sentence is trying to convey.

Linking your thoughts is important and using a discourse marker makes sharing your thoughts smoothly and makes that connection stronger.

This is similar to using ‘you know’, ‘I mean’, ‘so’, or ‘well’.

#3: Use ‘like’ as a quotative verb

A quotative verb is a verb that introduces a direct quote or an internal dialogue.

This implies talking about what someone is thinking or expressing.

This is a good way to share your subjective take on sharing about someone else’s thoughts.

It is a good method when you can’t remember verbatim exactly what a person said or did.


I said I wanted to attend the concert and John was like, ‘Are you sure?’

This can be very helpful in storytelling.

It gives you a way to share your perspective when telling a story and can add a dramatic flair to it.


The word ‘like’ is seen negatively by many English speakers and learners.

When you’re learning the English language, you may have avoided using this word.

Valerie has shared why this shouldn’t be the case and using ‘like’ can even boost your conversation skills.

Take note and practice all the tips she shared in today’s episode to sound more like a native English speaker.

But of course, if you overdo anything, it can get annoying.

Use the word ‘like’ as a discourse marker and not as a filler when you don’t know what to say.

You can pick up Valerie Fridland’s book “Like, Literally, Dude: Arguing for the Good in Bad English”.

You will learn more misconceptions of English words that are based on fallacy and humor.

You will learn the history of English words as Valerie unpacks fascinating linguistic and scientific approaches to learning the English language.

For additional information and resources, you can visit her website

What are other English words that you think have a negative reputation?

Share them in the comments to start a discussion!

Valerie’s bio

Valerie Fridland is a professor of linguistics in the English Department at the University of Nevada, Reno. She writes a popular language blog on Psychology Today called “Language in the Wild,” and is also a professor for The Great Courses series.

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