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     Volume 1 Issue 9 | October 28, 2006 |


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Learner's Club

What's Your Friend Like?

A large portion of our day to day conversation contains questions like 'What do you do? Where do you come from? Where do you live? Who do you have in your family?' etc. We also frequently ask questions such as, 'What's he or she like? What's the place like? What's your friend like?' to find out about a person, a place or a thing. Notice the following questions and their answers.

: What's she like?
: She's a nice person; intelligent and friendly.
I'm sure you'd like her.

: What's the weather like?
: It's very hot and humid. We haven't had any rains for days.

: What's your new job like?
: It's interesting. I've to do a lot of travelling and meet a lot of people.

Note: By asking the question What's s/he like? the speaker wants to know about the person in general. In response to this question you can describe the person's character, personality, or you can describe his or her appearance, how s/he looks. For example,
A. Shujan, Ehsan, Neela and Hashi are friends. Shujan's father wants to get to know his son's friends and so invites them for lunch one Friday.

Neela : Ehsan, what's Shujan's father like?
Ehsan : Well, he's quite conservative and often complains about the ways of the young generations.

But when Neela asks the same question to Hashi who has met Shujan's father a few times, see what Hashi says,

Neela : Tell me, what's Ehsan's father like?
Hashi : Oh, he's handsome! Tall and dark, and has a strong personality.

B. Now suppose the situation is different. A friend of your elder brother is coming from abroad. Your brother asks you to go to the airport. You haven't met the gentleman before. So, you ask,

You : Bhaiya, what does your friend look like?
Brother : Well, he'll be about 5' 10" tall, fair complexioned and has a short beard. Wears
You : Oh, I'll find him, don't you worry.

Notice that the difference between 'What's he like?' and 'What does he look like' is that, in the case of the latter, the speaker wants to know about the person's looks not about his personality or character, whereas, the first question can refer to both.

In some places, one can use 'How is it?' instead of 'What's it like?', but not always. For example, to mean 'What was your holiday like?' you can say, 'How was your holiday?' or, instead of saying 'What's your new job like?' you can say 'How is your new job?'
However, when you use the same expression for a person, such as, 'How is Champa?' you are actually asking about Champa's health, not about her appearance or her nature.

Read the following expressions carefully and notice the different meanings in which the word 'like' has been used in them.

What's your friend like?
What's your friend like?
What does she look like?
What does she like?
What would you like to have?

To answer the above questions, we can say,
She's a wonderful person; good-looking, kind, and intelligent.
She has a thin face with large brown eyes and a sweet smile.

The first question asks for a description of the person in general that can include both appearance and character. The second one refers only to physical description. The third question is about the person's preference, while 'like' in the last question means 'want'.
Let's have a look at the following dialogues and see where and how we can use 'what's s/he like?' and 'What does s/he look like?'

C. Aleya and Salma are childhood friends, but they now live far apart. Aleya is studying history at Dhaka University, while Salma is studying economics at a university in Montreal, Canada. Salma is in Dhaka now on her summer vacation. Aleya is eager to know about the weather, the people and the city of Montreal.

Aleya : Salma, tell me about Montreal. What's the weather like?
Salma : It's beautiful in summer. We have lots of sunshine; and it's dry,
not so humid like it's in Dhaka. But winter is awful!
Aleya : What's it like?
Salma : It gets very cold, the temperature falls below -10 degree Celsius to -30 degree
Celsius. In Montreal, it's winter half the year, you know. It starts in mid-October
and it snows well into April. We have ice storms and often we don't see the sun for
days together.
F. Reza : I think the Alams really enjoyed themselves in the party.
Nahar : Well, they were all right.

Or, Masud and Hamida went to a different kind of a function today at the local club.
Shamim Chowdury, an old member of the club who had just returned from a tour
abroad, talked about his experiences. Masud enjoyed the talk very much, while
Hamida liked it but not as much as Masud did.

Masud : Shamim is a fantastic story-teller, isn't he?
Hamida : Yes, he's quite good.

Or, : I thought the movie was terrific! The story was so powerful!
: Well, it wasn't bad.

Or, : I think English is a very difficult language.
: I agree, up to a point. But once you start using it ......

Now, suppose you have a clear negative opinion about something that you want to express. What do you say?

E. While Aleya and Salma were talking, Aleya's college going sister, Shaila, came in and sat behind them. She had been listening to what Salma was saying. Suddenly she asks,

Shaila : Salma apu, do you and Adrian often go out together?
Salma : Well, only on weekends. We usually go to the movies or to eat out.
Shaila : What are the movies like?l
Salma : They are usually romantic comedies, sometimes science fiction
movies, too. Well, Aleya, now tell me about your friends at the
University here.

Notice that in response to 'What dos s/he look like' you wouldn't say, 'S/he looks like ......'
That is, you wouldn't repeat the word 'like' in your answer. For example, you would say, 'S/he has a round face and has black curly hair.'

When you say, 'She looks like an actress or a singer', 'looks like' here has the meaning of 'I think'. For example,
: What's in the parcel?
: It looks like a book. Let me open it and see...yes ...
It's a book.

Or, : Don't forget to take your umbrella; looks like it's going to rain.'
'Looks like' is being used here to mean 'It seems'.




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