Tim Bowen treats the likes of us to an article on a frequently-used word that is, like, so useful.

Apart from its uses as a verb, a preposition and a conjunction, like also functions as an adjective, an adverb, a noun and a prefix, making it one of the most multi-functional words in the language.

As an adjective, it means 'similar' or 'the same' and is most often used with the noun mind, as in ' I can see that you and I are of like mind on this issue'. With this meaning, the adjective like-minded also exists, as in 'like-minded people who share the same interests'.

As an adverb, it has a variety of functions. The first is to indicate a pause in speech, as in 'He hasn't phoned me in, like, three weeks'. Again, in spoken in English, like can be used to draw attention to something or to emphasize it, as in ‘They were, like, so rude!’ It is also used when reporting speech, as in 'And I'm like “Give me a chance, Simon”'.

As a noun, like is used in a number of fixed expressions, such as and the like, meaning including other similar people or things, as in 'pop stars, films stars, models and the like' and to compare like with like, meaning to compare two things that are similar in some way. It is also used in the plural to refer to a particular type of person, as in 'I doubt if they’ll let the likes of us into a posh party like that'.

Like functions as a suffix with a large number of nouns to make adjectives meaning similar to something, as in ‘The illness causes chest pains and unpleasant flu-like symptoms’ and ‘We were instantly struck by her innocent childlike face’.