How is... or What is... like ??


Dear Grammarly!

I would like to know if the sentence "How was the political situation in xyz?" is correct. I am not a native speaker and I remember myself that our teacher taught us "how is/was" to explain what something is/was like. Nowadays I see expressions like "what's the weather like?" (which sounds good and is correct for me) instead of "how is the weather?" (what I have learned).
Which one is correct? What's the difference if there is a difference?

Thank you very much in advance!

asked Apr 07 '13 at 13:00 Sky New member

2 answers


I would use the pronoun 'what' in this sentence. 'How' is an adverb and doesn't ask the right question.

What is the political situation in xyz?


'How' would be more appropriate in a question such as:

How are the political reforms progressing in xyz?

link comment answered Apr 07 '13 at 15:42 Lewis Neidhardt Grammarly Fellow

Lewis hasn't quite answered your question.  In fact, in certain contexts, How... and questions can have much the same meaning, asking for a qualitative description of something.  Your example is a good one: How is the weather? and What's the weather like? are basically asking for similar information.  However, oftentimes, there is an important difference: how-questions tend to be asking for current, impermanent information, whereas tend to ask for fundamental, unchanging information. 


How’s the weather?It’s raining today.


What’s the weather like?  - It rains a lot in the spring but the summer is warm and sunny.


Admittedly, this distinction is less prevalent in questions about the weather, compared to other topics.  The difference between How’s John? (tell me what’s new with him, and about his current state of happiness/unhappiness) and What’s John like?(tell me about his personality) is more pronounced.



I hope this helps.

link comment edited Apr 08 '13 at 00:38 Shawn Mooney Expert

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