English is not my native language and I've sometimes trouble following social norms with different expressions. I hit a situation where the counterpart asked "tell me what you like about X" and it later turned out that they were expecting only positives as the response. And because I understood that expression as asking for my honest opinion, I mentioned both pros and cons which did caused them to be upset. (The question wasn't about a person in case that makes a difference.)

Do any of the following expressions ask for honest opinion or is the other party expecting to receive only praises when they ask questions like these?

  1. "What do you like ..."
  2. "Why do you like ..."
  3. "How do you like ..."

I understand that the word "like" is nowadays somewhat problematic here because it's commonly used as user interface action in social media to represent positive interaction only.

If the answer is "it depends on region" instead of "it's interpreted like this in generic English", that's interesting to know, too.

1 Answer 1


Normally, "like" is a positive word that means to have positive feelings about something, so it makes sense questions such as "What do you like about X?" and "Why do you like X?" are only about positive things. These questions all assume that you do like X, and are requests for more information about that opinion.

The exception to this pattern is, "How do you like X?" This is the only question that's just asking for your opinion, and can include saying that you don't like it at all.

A: How did you like the movie?
B: It was terrible!

  • Is there any difference between "what" and "why" in this context, other than the spelling? (E.g. one is more polite than another.) Commented Sep 14, 2022 at 14:58
  • 2
    "What" and "why" have the same meanings they normally have. They are not pat expressions or idioms. "What about..." invites an answer including a list of aspects of X that they liked, and "Why..." invites reasons they liked X.
    – gotube
    Commented Sep 14, 2022 at 15:24

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .