Recommended level: Intermediate / Advanced (for the final two sections of this resource)
What does he like? --> Tell me about his preferences, things he enjoys, and/or his hobbies.
What would he like? --> Tell me about his preference in the moment or in the future, or about his hypothetical preference in a particular situation. "Would like" is a polite synonym for "want" (or "would want" in second conditional sentences).
What is he like? --> Tell me about his personal characteristics and/or his personality.
What is it like? --> Tell me about its characteristics. (For instance, the characteristics of a job, a building, a movie, a personal situation, etc.).
What does he look like? --> Describe his physical characteristics.
What does it look like? --> Describe its physical characteristics.
What does it sound like? --> Describe how it sounds.
What does it smell like? --> Describe how it smells.
What does it taste like? --> Describe how it tastes.
What does it feel like? --> Describe how it feels.
What do you feel like? --> What would you prefer? What are you in the mood for?
In this resource, you will learn about the word "like" and how to use it in a variety of English questions. You will learn the difference between "What does he like?" and "What is he like?" You will also learn the phrases "look like," "sound like," and "feel like." Don't worry. We'll go step by step, and you will have chances to practice. By the end of this page, you will have a lot more knowledge about how the word "like" is used, and you will be able to use it yourself.
What do you like?
If you want to ask and know about a person's general preferences and things they enjoy, the word "like" is essential. Let me share some things with you that I like.
I like writing. (Or, I like to write.)
I like reading. (Or, I like to read.)
I like going for walks and listening to podcasts and audio books. (Or, I like to go for walks and listen to podcasts and audio books.)
What about you? What are three things that you like? Think about it for 10 seconds, and say your answers out loud, or write them in the comments. Go ahead. Do it now.
Your turn: "I like..."
Good job! Now, I'm going to give you five questions that ask about your likes (Yes, you can use "like" as a verb or a countable noun). Take your time and answer the questions below. Here we go:
What do you like to do on weekends?
What do you like more? Cool weather or warm weather?
What did you like to eat when you were a kid? (Begin your answer with "When I was a kid, I liked to eat..." Reminder: "Kid" is another, more casual way to say "child.")
Who in your family likes to dance? (Example answer: "My cousin Freddy really likes to dance.")
Do you like spicy food? (A reminder that you can answer a yes/no present simple question like this one with "Yes, I do," "Yeah, I like spicy food," or "Yes, I do like spicy food." The negative forms are "No, I don't" and "Nah, I don't like spicy food." I've included "Yeah" and "Nah" for variety, and to illustrate how some people actually speak in casual situations.)
So, did you answer all of those questions? Not too bad, right? Let's keep going.
What would you like?
"Would like" is a more polite synonym for the word "want." It is mainly used to express your preference in the moment, and is commonly heard in customer service situations. For example, if you call your phone company because you want to change your phone plan, you can say "I would like to change my phone plan." This means you want to do this now. However, just like the word "want," you can also use "would like" to talk about things you want to do or things you want to happen in the future. The desire is still happening in the present, but it's for a future event. For instance, "She would really like to get a new job next year."
Now, let's look at some examples with present and future meanings. Don't become obsessed about which is which. It's really not that important. The important thing is that you understand that the sentences are expressing a desire for something, and that you can make similar sentences by yourself. Here we go:
"We would like to travel to Morocco this year."
"Carter sounds like a good candidate for the job. I'd like to meet him for an interview next week."
"What would you like to drink?" "I'd like a ginger ale, please."
"My best friend says he would like to move to another country."
"Hmm. This is a difficult decision. I'd like more time to think about it. Is that okay?"
Notice that when you use "would like" in speaking, it's common to contract subjects with the word "would." For example, "I'd like," "He'd like," "She'd like," "They'd like," etc. Okay, now it's your turn again. Answer the questions below. Here we go...
What's a place you'd like to visit one day? (Sample answer: "I'd like to visit Sapporo one day." "One day" means "At some point in the future," or "At some point in one's life.")
What would you like to have for lunch or dinner today?
What is a habit you would like to develop? (Sample answer: "I'd like to develop a habit of reading for 20 minutes every day.")
How much money would you like to make five years from now? (Possible answer: "Five years from now, I'd like to make $60,000 per year.")
"Would like" can also be used with second conditional "if" clauses. For example: "If you had a choice, where would you like to live?" This is similar to asking "Where would you want to live?" or "Where would you prefer to live?" These are second conditional questions. Remember, you use the second conditional to talk about present and future hypothetical situations. This usage makes "would like" sound a little tricky, but it's not too bad when you just see it in context, and it looks pretty similar to what we have seen already. Let's look at a few more examples:
"They'd like to move to New Zealand if they could." (In this case, maybe they don't have the money to move to New Zealand.)
"I wouldn't like to work for a demanding boss." (In this case, as in the cases in the first part of this section, the condition is implied. You could extend this sentence to say "I wouldn't like to work for a demanding boss if I had the choice to do so.")
"Do you think you would you like to live in the country if it were an option?" (In this question, "the country" refers to a rural area, or an area that is separate from the city and surrounded by nature.)
"If you had more free time, what is something you would really like to do?"
That wasn't so bad, was it? As you can see, you use "would like" to talk about present, future, and hypothetical preferences.
What is he/she like?
If you want to ask about a person's character and personality, you can ask, "What is he/she like?" Is the person funny? Quiet? Loud? Polite? Rude? Patient? Impatient? When a person asks this question, you don't have to answer with "She's like funny," for example. Just say "She's funny." Let's look at some example situations.
"What's the new manager like?"
"He seems nice. I've only met him once, though."
"I'm going to meet my girlfriend's parents tonight. I have no idea what they're like."
"I didn't know Frederick was so aggressive."
"What did you think he was like?"
"I don't know. Nice?"
"Hey, is it okay if I invite my boyfriend to your dinner party?"
"Sure. I've wanted to meet him for a long time! What's he like?"
"He's really social and makes friends easily."
Now, it's your turn. Think about someone in your life. It can be a family member, friend, or colleague. What are they like? Take a few seconds to describe them.
Did you do it? Okay. Next, you can also use "be like" questions with things.
What is it like?
Basically, if you ask "What was it like?" or "What is it like?", you're asking someone to tell you more information about something. You want to know the characteristics of something. It's always easier to just look at some examples, so let's do that. Take a look:
"What's your new apartment like?" (This means describe your new apartment to me.)
"Beatrice moved out last week. I wonder what that experience was like for her parents." (To "move out" means to stop living in a place. In this context, Beatrice moved out of her parents house to be more independent. What was that experience like for her parents? It was probably a pretty emotional day.)
"I've never been to an escape room. Do you know what they're like?" (Escape rooms are a popular social activity in some parts of the world. Basically, you have to solve clues to escape a room or a series of rooms. What are they like? In my experience, they're pretty fun, but they can also be frustrating if you go with the wrong group of people, or if you can't solve one of the puzzles.)
"What was the movie like?" (This means tell me about the movie. While this question is used, it's usually more common to ask, "How was the movie?" You can answer this question with something like, "It was too long," or "It was fantastic.")
Those are enough examples for now. How are you doing? Are you ready to practice this a little bit now? Good, because it's your turn again. Tell me, what's your city, town, or village like? Think about it for a few seconds and either write the answer in the comments or somewhere else, or just say it out loud. Go. What's your city, town, or village like?
Thanks for doing that. Remember, the best way to learn something new is to actually practice it. Let's continue.
What does he/she/it look like? What does it sound like? What does it smell like? What does it taste like? What does it feel like?
You can use "like" questions to describe how someone or something is experienced through your senses. In regard to asking about the physical characteristics of someone or something, you can say, "What does [the person or thing] look like?" For example, "What does his car look like?" Maybe you and your friend are waiting for someone to pick you up in their car, and you ask your friend, who knows the driver, about the car. Your friend might say something like, "It's a red SUV," or "It's a blue Toyota Corolla." You can also ask how something sounds like, smells like, tastes like, or feels like. In the case of people, you probably want to be polite--and not weird--so you probably want to avoid asking questions about how people smell, for instance.
Okay, so now, let's look at some real-life examples that use these sensory "like" phrases:
"I've never heard of that band. What do they sound like?" (In this case, you can also ask one of our previous "like" questions by saying "What are they like?")
"This smells delicious!"
"Really? What does it smell like? Because it looks weird to me." (In this scenario, you can also ask, "How does it smell?")
"Have you ever tried crocodile meat?"
"Never. What does it taste like?"
"It tastes like chicken." (In this scenario, another common question is "How does it taste?")
"That jacket looks good on you. What does it feel like?"
"I like it. It feels really comfortable." (In this scenario, another common question is "How does it feel?")
Now, it's your turn. Think about your bedroom. What does it look like? What does it feel like? Take a few moments to really think about it. I'll wait. Go ahead.
What do you feel like?
We have finally arrived at the final "like" question type. Near the beginning of this resource, we talked about using "would like" for personal preferences. Well, there is another idiomatic phrase that you can use to talk about what you would prefer in a particular situation. That idiomatic phrase is "feel like." You use "feel like" to say what you are in the mood for at a particular time. By now, you should know that I love using a bunch of examples to illustrate a point, and I hope you do, too. So, here we go again. This one is a little more idiomatic than what we have learned so far, but don't worry, I'll explain everything. Here we go...
"Which movie do you want to see?"
"I don't know. There are a lot of options. What do you feel like?"
"I'm in a horror mood."
"Yeah, I feel like horror, too."
In this exchange, what you "feel like" is what you would like to watch, but it also refers to what you are in the mood for at the moment. The sentence "I feel like horror" sounds a little funny, but all it means is "I am in the mood for a horror movie," or "I would like to watch a horror movie."
Let's look at another very common situation that uses "feel like" in this way.
"What do you feel like having for lunch?"
"Honestly, I'm in the mood for sushi, but I could have something else, too."
"Hmm. I don't feel like having sushi. I just had it yesterday."
"Okay, so, what do you feel like?"
"I kind of feel like pizza."
"Pizza sounds good. Let's go."
Notice that in this conversation "feel like" is followed by "I don't feel like having sushi" and "I kind of feel like pizza." You can follow "feel like" with a verb+ing--for instance, "I don't feel like dancing."--or just the thing that the person is or isn't in the mood for at the moment. You can use "feel like" in various tenses, too. Before you practice, here are a few more examples.
"What do you feel like doing tonight?" (Meaning, what are you in the mood to do tonight, or what would you like to do? What's your inclination?)
"Why didn't you wash the dishes?"
"I didn't feel like it." (This person probably felt tired or lazy. They mean they didn't do the dishes because they didn't want to do the dishes--they weren't in the mood for it.)
"I haven't felt like going out with my friends in months." (This person might be a little depressed, or they're just happy focusing on themselves. In either case, they have not been in the mood to socialize with their friends for several months.)
"Don't drink that. It's going to make you feel like garbage." (Okay, so in this case, your friend is giving you some very informal advice, and is using "feel like" to mention a point of comparison. They think you will feel terrible if you drink what you intend to drink.)
"Do you want to go to the grocery store with me?"
"No, thanks. I feel like staying home today." (Meaning, I'm not in the mood to leave the house today.)
Okay, that was a lot of information. So, to end things, it's your turn again. Let's practice a specific example with "feel like." Imagine that you and your friend are making plans to do something tonight. Your friend sends you a text message that says "What do you feel like doing tonight?" How do you answer them? Think about it for a few seconds, and either say your answer out loud, or type it somewhere. Do it now.
Wow. I feel like we have learned a lot on this page. I hope you do, too! If things still feel a little overwhelming, go back to the sections that you're not sure about and review them again. The keys to language learning are repetition and regular exposure to interesting content.
And I hope you found this interesting. If you did, and if you would like to learn more English with me--or if you just want to support my work--please consider purchasing one of my books. They are available in PDF, eBook, and physical formats. Thanks again, and best of luck with your studies.