Confusing words: What is he like?/How is he?
- First, we know that “¿Cómo está él?” is “How is he?”, as we learned it in the first weeks of class.
- But then we have the question “¿Cómo es él?” Our first reaction is to translate literally, but there we have a problem: a literal translation of “¿Cómo es él?” is “How is he?”, which we know in fact means “¿Cómo está?”
- So what is “¿Cómo es?” Well, it’s the longer question “What is he like?”. This question serves to find out both what appearance he has as well as what personality he has. If we want to focus on looks alone, we can ask “What does he look like?” (¿Qué aspecto tiene?)
- However, we must remember not to confuse these with “What does he like?”, which means “¿Qué le gusta?”
- Finally, to summarize:
¿Cómo está él? = How is he? (here, cómo=how)
¿Cómo es él? = What is he like? (here, como=like)
¿Qué le gusta? = What does he like?
¿Qué le gustaría? = What would he like?
¿Qué aspecto tiene? = What does he look like?
These are just some basic questions that Spanish speakers may easily confuse, so memorize these and never fall into the trap again!
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