‘How’ vs. ‘what does it look like’ in English

by Jakub Marian

Tip: See my list of the Most Common Mistakes in English. It will teach you how to avoid mis­takes with com­mas, pre­pos­i­tions, ir­reg­u­lar verbs, and much more (PDF Version).

One thing I keep reading on the Internet is the expression “How does it look like?” Sadly, this sentence doesn’t make any sense. The correct way to express the thought is either “What does it look like?” or “How does it look?” For example:

I’ve heard he’s got a new car. What does it look like? (correct)
I’ve heard he’s got a new car. How does it look? (correct)
I’ve heard he’s got a new car. How does it look like? (wrong)

Although both questions are correct, there may be a slight difference in meaning. “How does it look?” is usually answered with a mere adjective:

Q: I’ve heard he’s got a new car. How does it look?
A: It looks good. / It’s all right. / It’s ugly.

Of course, the thing you are asking about doesn’t have to be “it”, for example:

Q: You’ve got a new boyfriend? How does he look?
A: I think he’s cute.

On the other hand, if you ask “What does he/she/it look like?”, you are inviting the other person to give you a more precise description (often using the word “like” and a noun, but not necessarily):

Q: You’ve got a new boyfriend? What does he look like?
A: He looks a little bit like Johnny Depp and has beautiful blue eyes.

This article was based on my guide to the most common mistakes in English, which explains many similar topics. Why don’t you check it out?

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