I, once by a teacher, was taught that look to verb can only be used in the meaning where you're seeking or finding something, e.g. I am looking to get a decent place to stay for a night.

But, recently I've heard The attorney doesn't look to be hurt from a YouTube video featuring a court scene in the US. The defendant in the trial suddenly attacked his attorney. The narrator of the video said that expression stating the state of the attorney after the attack. In this case, look to be hurt doesn't seem to mean seeking to be hurt, but rather seem to be hurt.

So, can the look to verb pattern be used in either way?

Each and every response and answer will be appreciated.

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    As a British English speaker I would use seem to be - but you would have to search Google Ngrams to find out how common the expression is. Commented Jun 16, 2021 at 8:55
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    I'd say [to be] looking to [do something] (Intending to do it) is primarily an informal British English usage (an idiomatic usage, not immediately comprehensible if you don't already know the expression). Completely different to the cited usage here, where look is simply an alternative to appear, with both terms having the same standard literal meaning. Commented Jun 16, 2021 at 11:49
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    The attorney doesn't look to be hurt is fairly literal phrasing, meaning It doesn't look as though the attorney is hurt. But The attorney isn't looking to be hurt is an unlikely example of that completely different informal BrE usage, which would mean The attorney isn't deliberately trying to be hurt. Or more sensibly, The attorney is trying to avoid being hurt, as exemplified by I'm not looking for trouble in a pub argument (= Let's not fight!). Commented Jun 16, 2021 at 11:57
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    Yes, it's correct that The attorney doesn't look to be hurt is equivalent to The attorney doesn't seem to be hurt (or appear, give the impression of being,...). Personally I think this exact usage is informal, and primarily BrE - but I could be wrong on either or both of those points. You can reasonably "accept" @JavaLatte's answer, I think. Commented Jun 17, 2021 at 12:32
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    @JavaLatte: I suspect the higher prevalence for looking to get is mostly just down to the fact that get is used more generically in AmE. I see no significant difference if I chart looking to buy over the past half-century. Commented Jun 18, 2021 at 12:20

1 Answer 1


According to the Cambridge Dictionary, "look to verb" actually means that you are hoping or planning for something, so the example you provided means

I am [hoping/planning] to get a decent place to stay for a night.

If you are seeking something, you say look for.

The usage in the paragraph that you quoted is one of the normal meanings - seem:

The attorney doesn't seem to be hurt

The reason that me meaning isn't what you expected is the be word.

The attorney doesn't look to ...

This means that the attorney is hoping or planning to hurt somebody.

  • I made a mistake in wording it and you're right it's planning rather than seeking. To check if I understood you correctly about the original point asked about, do you mean the quoted sentence is correct and equivalent to The attorney doesn't seem to be hurt? If so, is this a normal way of saying this? I've never heard the look to be used in the same way seem to be is used before. Commented Jun 17, 2021 at 7:19
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    @SmartHumanism: yes, that's right- it means the same. looks to be is uncommon- roughly one occurrence for every 60(AmE)/70(BrE) seems to be- but it is used and understood.
    – JavaLatte
    Commented Jun 18, 2021 at 3:20
  • Thank you for clarifying that. I appreciate it. Would you regard such a use of *looks to be * to be a legit expression that can be used in formal speeches or essays? Commented Jun 18, 2021 at 5:38
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    @SmartHumanism I would stick to seems to be for formal contexts.
    – JavaLatte
    Commented Jun 21, 2021 at 10:50
  • Thank you for your continuous help. Make it a great day and night. Commented Jun 23, 2021 at 6:54

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