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Question: “I’m, like, forget you!”

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QUESTION
Marco from Italy wants to know: “When I listened to the famous song “Forget you” of Cee Lo Green, I heard him say: “… and I’m like forget you … “.  What does the expression “I’m like” mean in this case and how is it used normally in (informal, I suppose) conversation?”

ANSWER
In American English, the word “like” has several very different usages (ways it is used).  The way that “like” is used in Marco’s example is as a way to informally paraphrase (repeat, but not in the exact words) what you or someone else has already said.  Take a look at these two examples:

A:  ”Jeff said, ‘I’m buying lunch!’”
B:  ”Jeff is like, ‘I’m buying lunch!’”

In the first example, I’m saying that Jeff said the exact words “I’m buying lunch!” at some earlier time.  In the second example, I’m giving you the essence (main meaning) of what Jeff said, but not necessarily his exact words.  He may have actually said, “Lunch is on me!” or “I’m paying for lunch!,” but the message is the same.

Americans use “like” in this way all the time in informal conversations.  Although it started out as something young girls used in daily conversation with each other, today, you’ll hear all kinds of people using it in this way.

Another very common way “like” is used in American English is as a filler, similar to “um” or “er.”  We all use conversation fillers to give us more time to think as we’re speaking.  Here are a couple of examples of this usage.

- “I, like, don’t know what to say to you when you’re so upset.”
- “Like, are you really going to move to McQuillanland?”

Finally, “like” is often used when we want to indicate that what we are about to say is an approximation, or that it isn’t exactly right, but it is close enough or good enough.  Often, this is an exaggeration (saying something is more than it actually is).  Here are a few examples:

- “The store is only, like, a mile from here, so there’s no excuse not to go.”
- “I ate too much last night.  I’m, like, never going to eat again.”
- “When my parents came home and saw what we did to the house, they, like, died.”

All of these uses are informal and you will almost never see them in writing or hear them in formal conversation.  However, you’ll hear Americans use “like” in these ways all the time. These are not the only uses of “like,” but they are among the most common in daily conversation.

There you have it (here is what you asked for), Marco.  I hope that answers your question.

By the way, Cee Lo Green’s song “Forget You” was very popular here in the U.S. a few months ago.  You can hear it here.  This is the “clean” version without profanity (bad words), because there is another version in which the word “forget” is replaced with the four-letter “f-word” that you all know.

~ Lucy

12 Responses to “Question: “I’m, like, forget you!””

  1. Peter Says:

    Well ,I suppose a simple thank you has a better chance here.

    Well, thank you Lucy

  2. sutisha Says:

    Dear Lucy and Marco,

    Thank you for your helpful question and answer. I have got to know Cee Lo Green from the reality
    talent show “The Voice”. His sense of humor, talent for music, way of treating with his cockatoo – am
    I right for the bird?-, are all I impress with. Thanks again.

    Best regards
    sutisha

  3. Tania Says:

    Hi! Very, very interesting explanation of the filler word “like”.
    Thank you.

    Best wishes,

    Tania

  4. Dan Says:

    Thanks Lucy.

  5. parviz Says:

    Dear Lucy
    I appreciate your useful explanation. I was kind of, like, my question, too.

  6. Peter Says:

    Guys,
    I personally think , this kind of talk is cool. But, the thing is , we should learn how to speak correctly first , then we can play with words to make it look more native.
    It is like driving. first you drive slow then as you acquire the skill you go faster .

  7. Betty Says:

    Dear Lucy

    Thank you very much indeed for this seemingly simple yet difficult to answer question.

    I read the news about Ryan Avery from Portland, Oregon in US who became the youngest person in Toastmaster International’s history to become a champion in its Public Speaking Contest last year.

    He was only 25 years old when he won the top honors in the grueling six-month contest.

    He confessed that he was part of the ‘Like’ generation where he used to say ‘like’ every other word which was not professional.

    I guess I am not part of the ‘like’ generation because I have never acquired this habit.

    Thanks again, Lucy, I like the way you explain ‘like’.

    I am, like, very happy to learn from you, Jeff and Warren.

    Betty :)

  8. emiliano Says:

    Dear Lucy, thanks for your grammar lesson, It is good to have from time to time some practical useful lessons of
    grammar and your way of doing them it is real amused.
    It seems there is not grammar at all.

    In Spanish we have lot of similar expresions that could express the same meaning you have explained us so well.

    “I feel like going to travel some place next April but it depends of some good circunstances”

    In our language we like not to be so precise as it is in English, may be that such a lot of spanish residents in USA
    have something to do with the expression “like”.
    To me it is easy of understanding the use of “like”…..my feelings are like doing this or that, but not having an exact idea of what is
    what I am going to do exactly or the way I could take to go some place or at what time is going to have my decission done”

    Yes, I like this expression very very much.
    Thanks a lot Lucy.

    emililiano (the senior)

  9. Ziba Says:

    Hi,

    Happy Valentine @};-

    Ziba

  10. emiliano Says:

    Dear Betty,
    sorry so much, I didn´t wish you a HAPPY NEW YEAR.

    There is a saying that says:

    Later it is better than never….So, later I wish you and your
    family a Happy New Year….

    Valentine? Ah, yes a happy Valentine Day for every one of you.

    emiliano

  11. Betty Says:

    Thank you very much indeed, Emiliano, it is very kind of you.

    Yes, Chinese New Year Holiday is a reminder for us that another old year has gone, another new year is ahead of us.

    Stop rushing around like usual. Clean up the house before New Year’s Day. See your families (note: not to see your friends). Have meals together with your families (again, note: not to see your friends).

    It is also a time hated by some married people because they have to part with their money. They need to give red packets with money notes inside to their junior family members and sometimes their friends’ young children.

    I have got used to give red packets to all the staff working in the building where my family live as well.

    When my mother was alive, she used to do so much before and around Chinese New Year. She would prepare a lot of red packets and a lot of presents to give to friends and families.

    I opt to do the opposite as my mother.

    On New Year Day, I go to my father’s house where all my brothers and sister gather. We exchange red packets and have a vegetarian meal because we are not suppose to kill animal for the Chinese New Year.

    I try to relax as much as possible, writing here enable me to do that.

    Thanks again, Emiliano, I hope you had had a nice time celebrating Valentine’s day with Cuca yesterday.

    Best Regards

    Betty :)

  12. Arnaldo Says:

    I’d like to know the diferences among cry, yell, scream and shout? thanks from the Dominican Republic