Is there any difference between "What is it like?" and "What does it look like?"

I'm asking about cases where we describe things that are not people.

For example:

What is Canada like?

What does Canada look like?

Are those two sentences the same?

  • Please ask your second question separately. It's completely unrelated and deserves different answers. Feb 27, 2018 at 6:37

3 Answers 3


Yes, there is a difference between them. They are not the same.

What is it like?

It's very general question about a thing and it may include many planes such as look, smell, sound, feeling.

compared with

What does it look like?

It's very specific because it asks about a look only rather than a sound, a smell, a feeling.


Those are very different questions.

What is Canada like?

This can be answered in many different ways. It is a super broad question. People could reply: "It's very cold and rich". Or they could reply "it's full of beautiful trees and hills" or they could reply "it's very liberal" etc. There's numerous ways you could answer this question. More likely than any English speaker would ask you to be more specific if you asked this question.

What does Canada look like?

This is a more specific question. You are asking about how it looks to the eye. Some responses to this would be more like: "its very white and full with trees", "it has beautiful sights" and so on.

What is it like is super broad, but what does it look like is asking how it looks to the eye


Your answer lies in the exact wording.

What does X look like?

You are explicitly asking about the look or appearance of something. You are using look to mean:

to appear or seem

If you took this question literally, your answer would focus on the appearance of Canada.

It looked beautiful: there was such a great balance between urban architecture and green spaces.

However, you could interpret look more figuratively. This would depend on context. For example, if you are talking about global economies and someone asked what Canada looked like, your answer could be about the financial landscape of Canada.

Person 1: The stock market has been so strong in the US lately. What does Canada look like?

Person 2: Pretty similar with the exception of the bumps in the oil industry.

Your first question is more general and is a better starting point for a general discussion. If I had a friend returning from a foreign trip, I would start with the general question. For example:

Person 1: What was Europe like?

Person 2: It was great - so different from North America. I loved the music and theatre scenes, not to mention the beautiful scenery!

Person 1: Oh, yeah? What does Europe look like?

Person 2: Beautiful green meadows with mountains in the background. It's exactly as you see in the postcards.

The conversation starts with generalities. Person 2 can talk about various aspects of her/his experience in Europe. Person 1 asks specifically about looks when the topic comes up.

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