Welcome to
ESL Printables, the website where English Language teachers exchange resources: worksheets, lesson plans,  activities, etc.
Our collection is growing every day with the help of many teachers. If you want to download you have to send your own contributions.





ESL Forum:

Techniques and methods in Language Teaching

Games, activities and teaching ideas

Grammar and Linguistics

Teaching material

Concerning worksheets

Concerning powerpoints

Concerning online exercises

Make suggestions, report errors

Ask for help

Message board


ESL forum > Ask for help > Difference between HOW and What to be like....    

Difference between HOW and What to be like....


Difference between HOW and What to be like....
Hello everybody. I would like to ask some help for all of you who happen to know the answer for my question.
My father (51 years old) is studying English. At the English School he is now, he is studying questions with the expression to be like. The thing is, there were some questions like: What is that girl like? or What was the movie like? or What will your life be like in 10 years? and he understands what the questions are about. The problem is that he doesnīt understand why not using HOW instead of WHAT TO BE LIKE in those questions. And I tried to look for answers on grammars and my oxford advanced learner īs dictionary, but till now I haven īt found anything.

Do you know the answer for this question? Can any of you explain why it happens? He won īt feel ok if I or his teacher don īt give him an explanation that makes sense.

I thank you in advance for helping me.

Have a GREAT weekend you all, dear friends.

Hugs from Amazonas.


20 Jun 2009      

United States

You can ask- how was the movie
or what was the movie like? 

How will you be or what will you be like in 10 years is also correct.

I think we use like more than how today.
That īs just the way language develops, I guess.

20 Jun 2009     


Thanks liza for clarifying this issue. You are a native speaker so you must be right. Although in some books the distinction is not that clear, In many books I have read.... 
What is he like? He īs funny and talkative (also physical description)
What does he look like? He īs tall and thin
How is he? He īs very well/ill/tired
Is "How is he like?" acceptable?

20 Jun 2009     


The way I have always understood it is that when you ask "What is he like?", you expect a description of the person wether it be physical or talking about his character. When you ask "How is he?", you īre asking a question about his health. I īm not saying I have the right answer but it īs just the way I was told and the way I teach it;

20 Jun 2009     

Hong Kong

Is "How is he like?" acceptable?  No. This is bad grammar.  Like is a comparison.  You can say "How is he like me?" but there needs to be an object after "like" in that structure.  I think Liberty meant "How will he be in 20 years?"  Not "How is he like?".  When we use "like" we use "what" to show the comparison.  We also say "How is he?" to inquire about a person īs condition.  Does it help?

20 Jun 2009     

Carla Horne
United States

We use "How was the movie?" in conversation because it is considered informal speech, so we would never want to use it as standard English or business English. Another way to ask that question is "Was the movie good?"

20 Jun 2009     

Hong Kong

How about "How did you find the movie?"meaning "What was your opinion of it?"

20 Jun 2009     

United States

"The problem is that he doesnīt understand why not using HOW instead of WHAT TO BE LIKE in those questions." "Can any of you explain why it happens?"

What is that girl like?
Here, the teacher may be asking about the girl īs personality (ex. friendly, thoughtful). Your Dad might say, "She īs very kind and helpful."
If you say, "How is the girl?" most people will think you are asking about her health. For example, if she was sick yesterday, you may ask, "How is she today?"
Since these questions are different,  you will get a different answer. You would ask the first question if you wanted to know more about the girl, and you would use the second question if you wanted to know about her health.

What was the movie like?
Often in English, there are different ways to say or ask the same thing. "How was the movie?" and "What was the movie like?" are two different ways of asking the person īs opinion of the movie. English speakers do that all the time.

What will your life be like in 10 years?
"What will your life be like in 10 years?" and "How will your life be in 10 years?" are very similar. You would probably get the same answer if you asked either question. Here you can see again how there is more than one correct way to ask a question in English .

I hope this helps. If not, I will try to explain it better for you.

21 Jun 2009     


I want to thank you all for you effort on helping me with that. My dad says thank you to you all too. All the answers have helped a lot. But I give my special thanks to bluebird4 once that was exactly what my father was asking me about! Thanks a million!

I wish you all have a GREAT Sunday and a wonderful coming week!

Hugs from Amazonas,

Vanessa and Renato (who happens to be my father Tongue)

21 Jun 2009