The Difference: What does ~ look like? Vs. How does ~ look?


Let’s compare these questions:

  • What does she look like?
  • How does she look? 

There is a small difference in meaning between these two questions. I will try to explain.

1. The question “What does she look like?” asks for a physical description or a comparison to another noun.

  • A: What does she look like?
  • B: She is tall and has brown hair. (This is a physical description.)
  • C: She looks like a model. (This is a comparison to another noun.)

2. The question “How does she look?” asks for a personal judgment (or evaluation), such as ‘good’ or ‘bad’.

  • A: How does she look?
  • B: She looks great. (This is a judgment of how she looks; it isn’t a description.)
  • C: She also looks happy. (Again, this is a judgment, not a description.)

Let’s talk about this animal.

A reddish fox sitting atop a tree stump.

  • Q: What does it look like?
  • A: It looks like a fox. (noun) It has orangeish hair. (description)
  • Q: How does it look?
  • A: It looks relaxed. (a judgment)

Common Mistake: How does it look like?

  • ✓ What does he look like?
  • ✓ How does he look?
  • How does he look like?

The last sentence above is never correct. You cannot combine “How” with “like”.

I hope you have found this helpful. If you have any questions or find a mistake, please leave a  comment below.

– Written by Matthew Barton / Creator of EnglishCurrent.com (copyright)

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