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Unlike or Dislike?

The words unlike and dislike are opposites of the word like. But to understand the difference between unlike and dislike, we need to understand the difference between "like" as a preposition and "like" as a verb.

Like - Unlike (preposition)

As a preposition, like means "similar to" or "nearly the same as". Look at these examples:

  • John was wearing a shirt like mine.
  • He looked like a ghost.

For the opposite of the preposition like, we use unlike, which means "not like" or "not similar to":

  • John is unlike Peter, even though they are twins.
  • I was surprised by John's behaviour. It is unlike him to be rude.
Note that like, unlike and dislike can all be used, less frequently, as parts of speech other than those shown here. On this page we discuss only the parts of speech that relate to the confusion between these words.

Like - Dislike | Unlike (verb)

As a verb, to like means "to find (something) pleasant" or "to consider (something) enjoyable":

  • I like you.
  • Mary likes swimming. She goes swimming every day.

For the usual opposite of the verb like, we use dislike, which means "to not like" or "to find (something) unpleasant/disagreeable":

  • Robert dislikes being called "Robbie".
  • I disliked her from the moment we met.
+ love like (no feeling) dislike hate -

The word unlike as a verb was very rare until an American website called Facebook.com used it to "undo" or "turn off" their Like button. In this sense, you stop liking something (or someone) after you start liking it. Note that to unlike is not the same as to to dislike. If you "dislike" something, you have a negative feeling about it. But to "unlike" something means simply to stop liking it. You may or may not now also dislike it.

Remember, though, that in the real world unlike as a verb is rare today, and its use is confined mainly to social networking.

The verb unlike (meaning "to stop liking") has been used -- albeit rarely -- for centuries, and can be seen in this quotation from the 18th-century classic Memoirs of Miss Sidney Bidulph by Frances Sheridan: "What can I do? My heart is not in a disposition to love...I cannot compel it to like, and unlike, and like anew at pleasure."

unlike

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