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I live in a country where English is not the native language. Oftentimes I hear my coworkers say they want to know or determine "how it looks like". This is grammatically closer to our native language than "what it looks like", which is the version I try to use.

I there a difference between the two, or should I just stop being bothered?

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Just BTW, this is an example I often use when people ask what an "idiom" is. If someone asks, "How does Sally look?", if I interpret the question literally, I might answer, "With her eyes." But the answer the person is really expecting is more likely, "She's very pretty" or "She looks terrible since she caught that disease" or some such. –  Jay Jan 23 '12 at 16:22
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3 Answers 3

up vote 15 down vote accepted

Irrespective of the context, it is either "what it looks like" or "how it looks", not "how it looks like".

However, let me add that as much as it is grammatically incorrect, you can find any number of occurrences of the phrase in daily use. You will not see "how it looks like" in the writing of learned English users, though.

Google returns "About 280,000,000 results" for "how it looks like". However, the nGram clarifies that "how it looks like" is hardly used in Google Books. We may suppose that the difference is between 'popular' and 'careful' usage.

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Thank you, I did throw in a google fight between the two phrases, but that didn't come out conclusive. Glad this does. Interesting shift in preference as well :) –  Stim Jan 23 '12 at 12:17
    
@Stim The difference is between 'popular' and 'careful' usage. –  Kris Jan 23 '12 at 12:20
    
It may be that the majority of instances are by non-native English speakers. –  Colin Fine Jan 23 '12 at 15:28
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Notice how it looks like the phrase "how it looks like" is barely used at all. –  Jim Jan 23 '12 at 15:36
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@Michael, I'd be more inclined to use "How does it look?" –  Wayne Werner Jan 23 '12 at 20:49
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"How it looks like" is not something a native English speaker would say.

There is a slight difference between "How it looks" and "What it looks like":

"Tell me what the sculpture looks like?"

... invites a detailed answer, probably involving the word "like":

"The sculpture looks like a killer whale leaping out of the sea."

Whereas...

"Tell me how the sculpture looks?"

... invites a value judgement:

"The sculpture looks pretty good."

The two can be used interchangeably, but the emphasis between objective and subjective descriptions is definitely slightly different.

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I agree but I'd be more emphatic. If someone asked me, "How does the new sculpture look?", I would be very unlikely to reply with a description. I would almost surely say that it was pretty or it was ugly or some other statement about its quality. In some contexts other sorts of qualitative statements might apply, like, "How does the new headquarters building look?" "It's almost finished." "How does Bob look?" "Pretty good, I think he's almost recovered from his illness." Etc. –  Jay Jan 23 '12 at 16:19
    
Except for the first sentence, your answer is at a tangent. –  Kris Jan 24 '12 at 4:18
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@kris the question asks if there is a difference between the two. –  slim Jan 24 '12 at 8:13
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The phrase "how it looks like" is grammatically incorrect.

In English you would say:

"what it looks like"

or

"how it looks"

Both of these phrases have the same meaning.

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protected by tchrist Jul 16 at 23:06

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