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English as a Second Language/"Look like" followed by -ing form of verb


Could you please explain the construction where the verb "look like" is followed by the -ing form of a verb?  I've heard sentences like this a number of times on the BBC, and assume that this is mainly a British usage.  Is that correct?
The only reference to this that I've been able to find is at the Oxford Dictionary website, which says this is an informal usage, where "look like" has the meaning: "show a likelihood of".  The dictionary also says that "scoring" is a present participle.  I would have said that "scoring" is a gerund, so this is confusing to me.
Could you show me more examples of this construction, and perhaps point me to a grammar reference?
Many thanks for your help.

Hi, Ronald,

I'm afraid that I don't have time at the moment to research this point, so what follows is a personal response. I make no claim that it is authoritative.

I would say that this construction is very informal. Your example, "Leeds didn’t look like scoring from any of their corners" does not sound to me unnatural in informal conversation, but I would write only "It didn't look as if/though Leeds would score from any of their corners". Any other examples that I can think of, such as "He didn't look like winning at that point" seem clumsy as soon as I write them.  So, I would say that you may hear such things from speakers of British English (I can't comment on other varieties), but I recommend that you don't write them.

If I had to parse the sentence, I would say that 'scoring' was a gerund, but I would prefer not to parse it!

I am sorry if this has not been a very helpful answer, but it's the best I can manage.



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Jed Webb


I can assist with questions about English grammar (syntax, morphology, pronunciation and spelling)from learners taking such examinations as TOEFL, IELTS, FCE and CAE and other internationally recognised tests.


I have over forty years of experience in the teaching of modern languages, twenty-four of them in the Teaching of English as a Second Language. I have been an examiner for FCE, BEC and IELTS examinations, and a teacher trainer on courses leading to the Trinity College Certificate in TESOL.

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British Journal of Language Teaching, Vol XIX Nos I and II Education Today, Vol 41, Nos 1 and 3 Co-Author: Nix and Webb (1984) 'Creative English', Bad Homburg: Verlag Gehlen Contributor: Nix and Riederer (1973), 'Bottoms Up', Bad Homburg: Verlag Gehlen Rosenau and Nix, (1979), 'Look it up', Bad Homburg: Verlag Gehlen Nix and Ringholz, 'English in Projects', Bad Homburg: Verlag Gehlen

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