How and what …. like?

How is not usually used to ask about the nature or characteristics of people and things. To express this idea we use What … like?

What’s your mother like? – “She is a very nice person.”

What’s the educational system like in your country?”

How is used especially to ask about things which change; temporary states, moods, etc.:

How’s work these days?

How’s life?

But use What … like? Asking about the weather:

What’s the weather like this morning?

What’s it like outside?

How is used to ask about people’s health:

How’s Ron? “– “He’s very well.”


What’s Ron like?” – “He’s tall and dark and very nice.”

We also use how to ask about people’s reactions to their experiences:

How was the film?

How’s your steak?

How ‘s your new job?

You can ask also “What was the film like?” but then it means that you ask not for a personal reaction but rather a description or criticism.


More examples:


‘How are you, Myrtle?’ said Hermione, in a falsely bright voice. (J. Rowling)

“… How was it with Lockhart?” (J. Rowling)

‘Nick!’ he roared. ‘How are you? Head still hanging in there?’ (J. Rowling)

Dobby remembers how it was when He Who Must Not Be Named was at the height of his powers, sir! (J. Rowling)

‘Harry!’ she said. ‘You gave us such a fright. Come in – how’s your arm?’ (J. Rowling)

You don’t know what it’s like here. I don’t belong here. I belong in your world – at Hogwarts.’ (J. Rowling)

‘See what it’s like here?’ he said. ‘See why I’ve got to go back to Hogwarts? It’s the only place I’ve got – well, I think I’ve got friends.’ (J. Rowling)

Harry looked from their petrified faces to the red envelope. ‘What’s a Howler?’ he said. (J. Rowling)

 ‘Don’t you care what this looks like? Coming back here while everyone’s at dinner …’ (J. Rowling)

‘What does she look like?’ – ‘She was eighteen then, a lovely girl, with beautiful skin, long curling black hair, and fine black eyes which shone as brightly as her jewels. She looked like a queen. (Charlotte Bronte)

At least that is what he looked like to me. He was a tall, thin man dressed all in black, with a cold, stony face at the top of the column. (Charlotte Bronte)

‘But do you like him? What is his character like?’ (Charlotte Bronte)