As far as your English variety goes, is it OK to substitute "appearing" for "looking" in compounds without altering the meaning?

... for a business to want good appearing, well dressed, healthy workers... source

Passersby then began to comment on the nice appearing patterns... source

It is good appearing, not far too bouncing... source

  • It's not a good idea to do this, at least in American English, unless you want to have confused/bemused readers. Appearing in this sense might make the reader think that the subject wasn't there, or was invisible, and then suddenly appeared in a good or nice way. I would use good-looking.
    – TylerH
    Commented Feb 25, 2014 at 14:28
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    The first quote seems to be from a source a century old, so I would not assume it's English is in style or content still fully acceptable to the modern ear.
    – oerkelens
    Commented Feb 25, 2014 at 14:37
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    If you say "he looked good", the meaning is unambiguous. If you say "he appeared good", it's not clear to me what it means. Maybe this. Commented Feb 25, 2014 at 14:43
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    Look-ing is the current idiom; appear has other connotations and quite different grammar. Look is one of the sense verbs with its own special syntax and semantics, while appear is mostly used metaphorically to mean seem and syntactically it's an A-Raising verb, also like seem. Commented Feb 25, 2014 at 16:15
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    That third link, the author is not a native speaker, he's good but his mistakes are typical of advanced ESL speakers.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Apr 15, 2014 at 5:22

1 Answer 1


This is called collocation and is highly language specific
Basically, it's the proper combination of words for use in a sentence (example, adjective for particular noun+particular noun) and will appear strange to a native speaker if used wrongly, although might appear to have the same meaning to non-native speakers
This is something a non-native speaker will have to learn through practice

Further readings:

I want to concentrate in this article on the problems non-native speakers may have with English vocabulary use - in particular with the appropriate combinations of words. This is an aspect of language called collocation. An example of collocation that many learners of English may be familiar with is the different adjectives that are used to describe a good-looking man and a good-looking woman. We talk of a beautiful woman and of a handsome man, but rarely of a beautiful man or a handsome woman.

. . . . In another familiar example of collocation, we talk of high mountains and tall trees, but not usually of tall mountains and high trees.


Or search collocation on Google

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