Consider these two sentences:

  1. I was considering taking a taxi, but realized that Uber was cheaper and more convenient, anyway.

  2. I was considering taking a taxi, but then I was like, "Hey, Uber is cheaper, and more convenient, anyway."

Can anyone shed some light on what exactly is going on in the second example? I find myself and other people doing this in conversation. It sort of resembles the idea of doing an 'act-out', or 'emoting', in a theater sense. I'm really interested in doing some reading about what this is called, why people do it, if it has been common for a long time or only put into use recently, etc. Can anyone point me in the right direction?

Some more examples of this phenomenon from a reddit user:

He was all "What you doing that for?"

And I'm like "Mind your own!"

And he's "Woah there, just asking".

*Clarification: I'm not only interested in the fact that these examples use an explicit or implicit 'quotative like', but why we would choose to approximately quote our inner experience or someone else's apparent reaction, etc, instead of describing those things in a traditional approach. Bonus points if anyone knows if non-english speakers do this.

  • It feels like this question is more on topic on English Language and Usage, though it's probably answered by an existing question there (or another question there on the same subject). As you state yourself, it's used in conversation (and is found in writing very rarely).
    – Laurel
    Jan 12 at 14:20

1 Answer 1


I think "quotative like" is a good name for it.

I would call the first relating "self talk", and people of all languages have "self talk", conversations in their head.

But I have heard, instead of "I was like,...", "Then I thought,..." followed by an actual thought.

And that is something I have heard native French, German, and Russian scientists use, for decades.

But then I thought, "What if we just ignored these near-zero elements?"

So I am not sure if it is something new in the 70's, other than saying "was like" instead "thought" or "said".

And then I thought, "blah blah blah..."

And then I said, "blah blah bleh..."

And then I was like, "blah bleh bleh..."

Which would make the specific words "was like" or "I go" an American affectation begun in the 70's, but just synonymous with "thought" or "said" and thus not that ground breaking a linguistic innovation in my opinion.


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